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Equity Issues and NC Farmland Ownership

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We believe that educating ourselves on the issue of race in the context of farmland ownership is one way we can take action on NC State Chancellor Woodson’s request that the university community “eliminate racism and all other forms of discrimination” by embracing “with humility that we all have more to learn as it relates to understanding our own places of prejudice and how we can strive to overcome how these impact our own actions.” 

Below are a few charts based on historical agricultural census and general population data. This first chart represents the number of farms owned by Black and African Americans (blue line) versus the total number of farms in NC (red line). The earliest data available is for the year 1900.

As the chart above indicates, Black farm ownership actually peaked in the early 1900s. Since then there has been a steady decline in Black farm ownership, due to a combination of many factors, including Jim Crow policies and a lack of access to affordable legal assistance for estate planning. Many farms were passed down without wills, which set up heirs property situations, making farms vulnerable to forced partition sales. Other farms were intentionally sold as many African Americans moved to urban areas after World War II to find better employment. As the chart below indicates, the current percentage of the African Americans who own farm is at its lowest point since the Civil War. 

For more information on Equity and Farm Ownership in North Carolina, consider these resources at UNC, the Southern Rural Development Center, the Heirs Property Retention Center, and the Land Loss Prevention Project