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Georgia's youngest farmer is starting a bigger conversation about Black farming

georgias youngest farmer
Posted at 7:24 PM, Oct 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 22:33:25-04

ATLANTA, Ga. — Kendall Rae Johnson is a ball of energy with the biggest of smiles. Her happiness is contagious, but the six-year-old's identity is much more. She is the youngest certified farmer in the state of Georgia.

Her story starts with a lesson from her great-grandmother.

“My great-grandma Kate taught me this when I was three years old," Kendall Rae Johnson said.

She explained how to take a collared green stem and replant it. A year after her passing, that’s exactly what her parents did.

“And we put a collared green stem in the dirt. Kendall would go and check up on it every day, she wanted to see something happen," said Kendall's mom, Ursula Johnson. “And the collared green actually started to propagate and reproduce and that was the most amazing thing that you could have ever done for her.”

A few years later, Kendall’s love has flourished. She started the business 'aGROWKulture,' teaching her peers and giving presentations in schools.

“I grow apple tree, pear tree, okra, tomato, carrots, beans, peppers, squash, zucchini and cucumbers," Kendall said.

“She’s taught me a lot about just not being afraid. Sometimes she gets out here and is like, 'mom I need help. I need you to hold this stick so I can tie up the tomato,' and I’m like, 'who taught you this, where does this come from,'" Ursula Johnson said.

Her mission is to teach kids about where their food comes from.

“Maybe I can show them how to garden like me," Kendall said. “How to plant a seed or how to mix soil or maybe do some research on plants.”

“And it’s amazing to me how well she’s able to pick up, and then take it, and then flip it, and then make it her own," Ursula Johnson said.

Kendall is part of a larger conversation about the lack of Black farmers. Fulton County Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman hopes Kendall helps change the narrative.

“We’ve lost that tie to the soil," Abdur-Rahman said. “We do not get the loans, we have the lands and a lot of the times the lands that we have are inherited and they are inherited with depth. So between redlining and not being able to farm the land and be competitive I know many farmers that they ended up having to go into something else because they couldn’t compete."

According to the 2017 U.S. Census, 13.4% of the country's population is Black or African American, however, Black farmers make up only 1.34% of all farm producers.

William Crumpler II is a farmer within the young farmer program at Fulton County Schools.

“I know a lot of times we do feel uncomfortable getting into certain situations because we might not see people that look like us in the same field," Crumpler said. “My biggest thing is exposure to the kids because I was never exposed to gardening or planting or just knowing where your food comes from. Showing them you can do many different things even though there might not be that many black people or other race that’s doing a certain thing.”

What started as a lesson beneath the soil, has grown into a future of farming.