Note: All the events that were announced on this episode have been cancelled because of Covid19.
Just about every aspect of life in this country is affected by political processes. And this is certainly true of agriculture. From the enormous piece of legislation known as the Farm Bill to the work done by local FSA and county water boards, agriculture in impacted by what occurs during the political process.
In this episode, we chat with Lemario Brown, a farmer and Mayor Pro Tem of the city of Fort Valley. Lemario is part of a growing number of young people who are both farmers and are involved in the political arena.
Intro: Welcome to the Sustainable AG Rider podcast, a podcast bringing you news and views about sustainable agriculture from across the southeastern United States. Every show will feature insightful interviews and deep dives into sustainable agriculture topics with farmers, ranchers, land grant universities and local food system advocates. Now here’s your host, Brennan Washington.
Brennan Washington: Welcome to the sustainable ag rider podcast. I’m your host Brennan Washington, and I’m sitting here on another cloudy, dreary Georgia day. We’ve been getting hammered by rain, as has much of the southeast. And they say a farmer should never complain about rain, but I’m going to complain about it. It’s been hampering our ability to get some much needed work done on our farm and other farmers are facing the same issues. So I hope that its weather evens out pretty soon and that things dry up so farmers can go about their business and their livelihoods. So today we’re going to be talking about politics and how it goes hand in hand with agriculture. So you almost every area of our life in this country is affected somewhat by politics. And agriculture is no exception to that when a lot of people talk about politics. Now, unfortunately, in this country, political discourse has gotten so extreme that it’s really hard to hold conversations with folks without things getting nasty or the discussion degenerating into a name calling and all that stuff. So but we need politics and politics go hand in hand and with what we do in agriculture. And I want to spend a little time talking about it early in the year because of some important things that are going to be happening in the political arena this year.
Brennan Washington: One of the most important being the national elections that are coming up in the fall, both for the presidency and for the House and Senate. And we’re not going to talk about that area of politics right now. There are other shows that could do that a lot better. And I do. But I want to talk about politics as it concerns the aspects of agriculture. And so, for example, the farm bill is a big piece of political legislation that’s done every four years. I believe it is. And that literally defines what gets done in agriculture throughout the United States at all levels from large scale agricultural production to little guys like me. And we need to start having more nuanced discussions with our legislatures, especially those of us in sustainable AG. I was talking to a good friend every year. Georgia has this legislative I believe it’s a breakfast where you can come in and talk with your legislatures. And I think it’s geared specifically to agriculture.
Brennan Washington: And the person I was talking to bemoaned the fact that small scale ag was not represented sustainable, that to a large extent and organic AG to a large extent was not represented.
Brennan Washington: And he just bemoaned the fact that we could at least show up to these things and let our legislatures, legislators know who we are and also get to know them, because there may be issues that come out where you’re going to need to reach out to that legislature. You may not agree with the legislature on most of the things that they vote on, although they or their political beliefs. But there are times we’re going to have to go in and try to talk to people. Case in point being, there is a bill. I believe it. Just clear, the Georgia House Senate committee. It was bill House bill five forty five. And in a nutshell, what it does is limit the ability of people to sue an agricultural entity for creating any type of public nuisance. So that could be smell’s odors noise, that type of stuff.
Brennan Washington: I just found out about the law. Someone sent me an article article about it not too long ago when I read it.
And I think the law is deeply flawed. If it was just meant to protect, say, a farming community from having a subdivision move in, and then those people then start to complain about the effects of agriculture in that region when they were the ones who who moved into that region. So that I probably would have been fine with it, but it looks like it may open the door to things like, let’s say I have a lot of acreage and I was doing row crops and I wanted to now do industrial scale hog production, so confined animal feeding operations which bring with it. A lot of environmental and societal issues. You know, so you have the smell from the. From the manure. You have the environmental cost associated with things like runoff. And this law appears to be able to open the door to those type of operations while also taking away the ability of folks to complain about it or to bring lawsuits to change it.
Brennan Washington: And so I called my state legislator, Senator PK Martin, and we chatted about it. Now, P case, a conservative. He’s a Republican, but he’s also good guy. He’s been on my farm several times. He used to bring his kids many years ago to the Lawrenceville farmers market when we still had one. And we had a nice conversation with. I actually had left him a message, but he picked up the phone and called me and he said that, you know, he was on the fence about it. He was trying to find out more information. We talked for 20 minutes. So I think the bill did pass.
I think it did pass, but I think it opened by having these conversations. It opens up the door to us possibly making changes in this goes true. In any area of the country, in any state. It’s very important to have those conversations. Another important thing that’s going on this year in the political arena is the census, both the population census and the ag census. A lot of people may not know that there’s an agriculture census that’s conducted each every 10 years, right along with the regular census. And actually, I’m going to have when I’m finished taping this episode, I’m going to sit down and finish my ag census and get it on in, because that determines a lot of what a goes into the farm bill. A lot of how agricultural appropriations are made to states and then from those states to local counties and communities. And as it also has an effect on what types of projects get funded within agriculture. So five or six years ago, you really didn’t see much funding being specifically directed at urban AG and that’s now changing. I think part of the reason it’s changing is because we’ve actually documenting the number of urban farms and the size of these urban ag operations and stuff like that. So it’s very important that you complete both those censuses. And I also think it’s important for our young people to get involved in politics. So it’s like anything else. You know, young people have been making some fairly cogent arguments about the way some of the things are going going on in this country.
Brennan Washington: The economic outlook for a lot of how students, young people coming out of college is not good and tack on that student loans that they have to take out to get their degrees and student loans are a whole other issue. Once again, it’s in a political arena, but that’s a whole other issue. But they’re coming out and saying, well, look, we’ve got we’ve got these student loans and we’ve got reduce employment opportunities, but it’s like anything else. At the end of the day, if you are seeing things being done in government that you don’t like, you need to go out to the polls and vote. And, you know, a lot of people said, well, voting doesn’t matter. Will it does matter. It does matter because there’s been some elections recently where there was one. I forget what state it was. It was actually a tie and it was decided by a coin toss. That was the laws of the state on how they how they break ties. So we’ve got to bring young people into the fold, both on the political scene as well as in agriculture. New and beginning farmers are a big focus for USDA. But listen to the definition of a new beginning farmer, any farmer who has been farming 10 years less. So notice it doesn’t say anything about age.
Brennan Washington: So technically, I can be a 55 year old person retiring say from corporate America. And I’ve brought me eleven acres somewhere. And I’m a new and beginning farmer, which I’m fine with. I’m fine with those folks, old fogies like me coming into these spaces and doing small scale and sustainable agriculture. But we need to get young people involved and we really need to specifically concentrate on pulling young folks into agriculture, into the political arena. You know, we need to be looking at farmers 35 and under 30 and under and getting them both involved and the political arena as well as in agriculture at all levels of agriculture. And that’s what I want to have Lemario go on today, because he’s young, I think he’s 32, who will clarify that in his interview. He’s African-American and he’s mayor pro tem of The city of Fort Valley down in down here in Georgia. And so I wanted to have him on just to talk about what he faces as a young legislator and as well as the challenges he faces with his farm. He’s trying to do something for the farm. He’s working with a lot of older farmers and hopefully does a lot of knowledge transfer that’s going on there. So that’s what our show is going to be about today. I’m looking forward to having you guys listen to La Mario and that’s it. Go to the polls. No, your legislatures know the legislation that is out there.
Brennan Washington: When this bill came up to me, somebody just sent it to me along with some editorial comments about it, but I didn’t exactly know what would. Bill. Bill was and I didn’t have time to actually go out and pull down the bill. I just finally had a chance to do that. this morning. It’s not the end of the world, but there are some significant flaws in it. And we need to make sure that we are looking at these bills to making sure that they don’t impede in our interest, but also to advocate for things that we want. So so, for example, there’s a couple of years ago, the city of Atlanta got sued by this guy who had something to do with farmers markets. And he the current regulations at that time in the city of Atlanta, farmers markets technically was supposed to be managed and fell under the regs as if you were having outdoor events, major outdoor events like concerts or something like that, which meant that you had to have fire extinguishers at every farmer’s market, just a whole bunch of stuff that really did not apply to community based farmer’s markets. They just made no sense. So the city of Atlanta. and based off with some input from some folks working in urban AG, especially, got together with the city of Atlanta and they came up with what is probably one of the more prominent urban ag urban ag ordinances in the country.
Brennan Washington: But that came through discussions with legislatures, which with legislators and folks just getting together to say, we need this. This is something that we actually need. And want. We also need folks running for office. It’s one thing to go out and talk to our legislatures, but we also need political leadership in there at all levels and at all ages. And that’s not only true for all of the offices, offices that we typically know about, such as your state House and Senate representative, but also things like FSA boards, on county water commission boards, on farm bureau boards. It’s important that a young folk again get out people of color, get out and get on these things and run for these offices and that we need to make sure that our voice are heard and these spaces, because it’s one thing to complain about why you don’t like a particular policy or you don’t like the way a particular governmental agency is doing something. It’s another thing to actually say, well, wait a minute, I’m going to run for this board or I’m going to have myself will volunteer to be appointed. So you can get in and help do the work that you think your folks and your community want to see done. So so we’re going to be speaking with Lemario. I’m going to have some announcements, conferences, and I hope you enjoy the show. See you in a bit.
Brennan Washington: Now here’s some news about some upcoming events. The National Good Food Network’s conference will be held March 10th to the 13th in New Orleans, Louisiana. This is a biennial gathering of local food system workers from across the country to convene and discuss things like food distribution systems, equity in our food systems and other stuff of importance to local food system stakeholders. I’ll have information on this conference posted on the Web site. The North Carolina A and T Small Farms week will happen March 20th through the 26 up in Greensboro, North Carolina. This is a weeklong event that God will consist of educational events and we’ll conclude with them announcing their small the North Carolina small farmer of the year. The Southern University Small Farm Conference, will be held March 18 through March 21st in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This is a gathering of farmers of color from around the state of Louisiana who gathered together to to learn to do farm tours and to advance the cause of farmers of colors in the state of Louisiana. So those are your announcements.
Brennan Washington: Welcome back to the Sustainable AG Rider podcasts. I have the pleasure of having as my guest today, Mr. Lemario Brown and Le Mario is mayor pro tem of Fort Valley, the city of Fort Valley. And he’s also a producer, a farmer and producer. So welcome to the show, Mario. Mario.
Hey, how are you guys doing? Thank you for having me. Listen, this is a no brainer. I’m excited to give you guys an insight on, you know, a young politician like myself and in agriculture.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And thanks for joining us. So, first of all, tell me and it’s something I’ve always been meaning to ask you. What is a mayor pro tem?
Okay. So it’s funny I say, because I had a look at a couple kids, asked me to go to the school and talk. So what do you do? What is the be appropriate right now? Well, basically, the mayor pro tem, I act in the official capacity of the mayor. If the mayor is saying out of town or something happens where they just can’t get to the mayor, then I automatically step in if he or she is not present for meetings. I have the carry of meetings. I pretty much stay in contact with the entire city council. So which I’m pretty much the liaison between the council and the mayor, the mayor’s office.
Brennan Washington: Okay. So you’re a Fort Valley grad. aren’t you?
LeMario Brown: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Class of 2000 pride. All right. Graduate beat, Fort Valley State University.
Brennan Washington: That’s it. That’s it. We love our 1890 universities, man. And you’re also a producer. So tell us a little bit about your farm.
LeMario Brown: Well, I’ve been farming goats and pigs for about almost, I would say about six or seven years now. And they started out as a hobby in my parents’ backyard. You know, they have a 10 acre farm so fresh out of college. I looked with some things to do and just have been laying there in Peach County already that my family used to farm. So, you know, I just decided to get into farming. You know, it’s pretty it’s a pretty big thing to actually know what you’re eating these days, you know? So, you know, I felt like, hey, you know, the best way to do that is grow my. You know, so we started out with actually willing go in one week. So one day I say, hey, you know, you know, you got to get out of here, take them.
Brennan Washington: So they just hired you to do so.
LeMario Brown: Guys, you know, we got a, you know, male or female obese, where right now we have we have 20 goats on the ground. We have about five little ones that just just came in about two months ago. So in the business, you know, if anybody that’s that’s raising hogs, pigs, man, you know, it’s it’s not a pretty business. You know, I do it when we make the ham and the baker look good. I mean, it is some hard work to go into keeping those hogs in those people. Man, they they they grow, you know, so. But like I say, you know, the biggest thing is the goats. And we love the goats. They’re very low maintenance. They do a lot of cleaning on the property. So you do. And that’s like saying that goes fast. My main production.
Brennan Washington: Okay. So don’t you have some cattle, too? Little bit of cat.
LeMario Brown: Well, I have two cows. So officially MyDay is there. I’m not a cattle farmer. Yeah. Feel like it was like I’ve got to give out two or three more and then I can call myself a cattle farmer
LeMario Brown: So what are we actually looking into? Looking into moving it to some. I’ll be production as well in the near spring. We just got to do some some work on our fence. And right now on this one thing about raising cattle. You don’t have a problem fence mending do they’ll walk straight through the fence and the neighbor’s too. Probably. So, you know, you have to have your fence up right where you’re doing the cattle.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. There’s a guy not too far from us over social circles. Anyway, he’s raised in like water buffalo. Oh, wow. He said that his fencing problems was his biggest problem with they’ll go right through. Yeah. Not your normal cattle sense. All right. When you see the size license.
LeMario Brown: Yeah. Yeah. Well, I’ll go say like your place. Like if your neighbors have a cattle, you know, they were actually they’re probably tearing it down trying to get out at a pretty green stuff.
LeMario Brown: Yeah I know they would say no to that.
LeMario Brown: That’s what they’re enticed by the I guess the greenery that they can’t get to even if they got a real hay right there in front of they want to go get their first green grass.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. Yeah. So how’d you get into politics, Lemario.
LeMario Brown: Well, I grew up here and Peach County. I’ve watched the community. You know, I don’t want to say. Kind of go in a downfall. But I think around 2008, 2007, you know, around the housing crash, you know, when the housing market crash, you know, I think a lot of cities and a lot of homeowners. You know, everywhere, they felt that government wasn’t doing the right thing. Then and there’s a lot of questions about that past minutes for the past administration. And, you know, but but actually what got me involved as a senior at Fort Valley and actually Barack Obama, he actually announced his candidate, his candidacy in like early 2008. So, you know, Just just just following his platform, his background kind of got me interested in. Okay. So what is what is politics? You know it. I mean, I asked myself that question and I was actually talking to one senior about to graduate with student loan debt. Volkow the responsibility that I was to get right to take home, but I didn’t know exactly what politics was. So, you know, just this started it started going to local meetings, start going to the local city council meetings, then really understanding that, hey. So the civic council actually dictate how I pay my property taxes and how to the light bill and this stuff that I actually had to deal with on a month or day to day basis. So I’m like, so if I really want to make a change, I think that’ll be the the the most productive way right now that I actually can put my handle to make the change in my local community. So I started out working on a campaign in 2012. I worked on a campaign for a young lady that was a county commissioner.
LeMario Brown: So I got my feet wet to come meet some people, meet some of the movers and shakers here, piece county and understand, you know, the political process and some of the hot topics that was going on at the time. I was thinking like, man, you know, I do want to get into politics, but I never knew exactly where I could actually be a asset to my community. So I actually got to it. It was strange. I had a I got a call from the young lady that was the city administrator at that particular time. Her name was Martin Macrophage. And there was this old Coke building that I think, B, it was the Historic Preservation Committee. They wanted to, I guess, were there the building for the historic purpose of it. It was in a kind of a busy business district. So it really didn’t fit the, you know, to make of a word for what value was trying to do at that time. So she’s like, hey, we need some community for they actually come in and talk about this new company that’s coming in and that’s going to bring about 200 jobs. You know, they’re going to spend about 45 million dollars in investment. So it seems like the taxes that we want to get. You know, we really need to go ahead and, you know, try to get this business thing here. So, you know, I I gather some of the guys in the community, you know, spoke to them about the issue that was at hand. And, you know, we got a petition signed. We got about me, I think is like 3000 signatures over the weekend.
LeMario Brown: And they’re like things like mad. You know, and it’s all a thousand people in the city of Fort malibran. So in three days, we got 3000. She was like, wow. Like, you know what?
LeMario Brown: I’m I’m present this to the mayor council. And she presented those and they they heard my testimony. As far as, you know, the job market here for Valley, how we need it, you know, more jobs with sufficient pay. But right now, it’s like most of the issues that we’re dealing with now. It’s more it’s more economic issues. In the end that I said, you know what, we really need to try to get some jobs here for these folks that, you know, we just gonna we’re going to dry up and maybe we’re just going to be a bedroom community, which may be OK for some people, but for a town that has a HBCU are growing population of millennials. It’s the baby boomers. They’re moving now. Which we still need, you know, a lot of that. The more seasonal perspective. But if we can actually get both of those guys to work together like me and that young lady did, if she reached out to the young people in the community and she knew like, OK, I can get my generation to listen, I just need time to go to leg work. So, you know, but we work together and it worked out good. You know, we we have that company here now. They’re doing great things at Fort Valley Pure Flavor. Excellent. Thank you.
Brennan Washington: You know, it’s going to be actually about ask you about them, too. Yes.
LeMario Brown: So. So that was that was my only issue. But it just got alive. You know, it was it started way back then. And that’s how economic development happened. It won’t happen overnight. It takes about five years. If it’s a good project to get everything in place, the people on board get the stakeholders involved. So when I got involved, just get this looking at the hot topics and, you know, I ran a 2015 one. I’ve been a comedy shoo, shoo in for about 20 years. And I think she had Jared Loughner, the Republican philosophy, which is not a problem. But I think she was not the more progressive side of the house, which I’m I’m not the same with a Democrat with it’s not issue. I understand that a lot of my friends that I work across the table with, they have Republican philosophy. But at the end of the day, we figure out a way to get the job done for everybody, because no matter what, bill, you’re represent. We all got to pay these back. We all got to make put food on the table. So let’s work together.
Brennan Washington: There is a lot of black people, white people in rural communities. And yes, sometimes we just get unfortunately, the politics in this country has gotten so devisive we talk at it at each other rather than talk with each other. And that’s absolutely you know, hopefully that’s going to be changing soon. So you’re a young guy. What do you 34, 35, something like that.
LeMario Brown: Thirty four, man. Thirty four. I don’t feel you ever want to keep telling me that.
LeMario Brown: I remember when I was twenty four. Oh, man.
Brennan Washington: Well, gosh, bless you. You get to be my age. Yes, there was out which was 34 again.
Brennan Washington: So if you’re working with young folks and it’s two areas that we really need to get people of color involved in, one and one is the whole political system. And the other one is to continue to get our folks engaged in agriculture. Absolutely. And to first of all, to help preserve rural communities, to make sure that communities can at least make the attempt at feeding themselves. And especially when it comes to black folk, is stopping land loss among folks. So what are you as as a young politician who’s both who’s both involved in politics and agriculture? Where do you see? Well, first of all, let’s talk about where you think somebody’s challenges are. Right.
LeMario Brown: Well, I mean, to be completely honest in saying that land ownership. I mean, there’s a lot I do. I don’t know. I couldn’t name probably five forms and piece kind of that own the property that they’re farming. Why? Just clear own title. No. Our property. No. I’m releasing it from certain search. You know, there it’s a it’s a big disparity in where you’re talking about land ownership and black farmers. So, you know, I mean, in a lot of the programs that even the USDA in our cities, if I see all these guys awkward, you got to have a clear title or some kind of lease agreement. And it seems like our our community, they don’t they don’t like to sit down and talk about a succession plan. You know, it’s crazy for an adult. to hink they can live out of 60, 70, 80, 90 years and not have a succession plan or not even thinking about a succession plan.
LeMario Brown: You know, I’m I’m thirty point eight. Ain’t got kids. I know things about my kids, grandkids. You know, to me, I’m trying to put things in place now where they don’t have to have this discussion that we’re having.
LeMario Brown: And I think that’s what it’s going to take. It’s going to take more of the new formers and some of somewhat older homes that’s willing to actually start sitting down with their family members then and having that hard conversation about. OK. So what happens if that what happens if mom and dad? What happens if this happens? So, I mean, we got you know, we don’t want to be in the, you know, say here like a deer in headlights. If we, you know, if dad dies and nobody knows who owns the property, we thought we owned it all these years, all of these years and come to find out the guy down the road actually owns it. So, I mean, I’ve I’ve heard stories like that over. And so that’s the scary thing about it to me.
Brennan Washington: So, yeah. Yes. There’s a lot of focus now on Eric property issues. I know the federation just had a very. Largest conference in Atlanta this past weekend, on a weekend before last about it is just such a vexing issue to fix. It’s one that requires money. Yeah, it requires money to resolve these title issues and that type of stuff. What other challenges do you see in your work, especially as it applies to rural and semi-rural communities like Fort Valley?
LeMario Brown: Well, I think when we have a seat at the table, we often forget about, you know, and I’m just gonna be straight up. We forget about where we come from and we get in the room and we end the room. And we’re so tickled that we’re just in the room. And I’m like, let me bring it. No offense. I’m sorry for you, though. The closest council member to me is probably about sixty nine.
LeMario Brown: I think. Wow. So you can imagine what our conversations are. I mean, it is it’s more of a respect thing and it’s like, okay, I have to respect you because you’re like my grandfather’s days. But it’s just saying something off the wall that’s gonna hurt my community. Do I still say, oh, I respect grandpa, grandpa. But wait a minute.
LeMario Brown: Do the right thing about it? Yeah. So, I mean, it’s like we got it. We got to break down those barriers and start having a real conversation about the issue.
LeMario Brown: That’s that’s where I see a lot of time, a lot of times people get in these rooms and they just they talk about what they go do, why they don’t come out of the rules with a what actual plan
Brennan Washington: Yeah. Yeah.
Brennan Washington: I think another thing is that we overall don’t I think one of things that frustrates straight’s me frustrates me, Lemario, is when I see organizations that have been around for a while, whether they be political organizations or whether they be organizations involved in agriculture. That’s right. Some organizations don’t think there’s a need to identify and groom young leaders and even more. They’re not bringing those young folks to the table because we need those ideas. We need a young people want to bring to the table. And what I’m seeing now, unfortunately, in some cases, is that young folks just say, well, look, we’re tired of asking you to to let us get involved. We just want to do it ourselves. And then that causes some sort of friction.
Brennan Washington: Fissuresr Yeah. Because then the old organizations where you guys are just wet behind years, what are you gonna do?
LeMario Brown: Yeah, there you go. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
LeMario Brown: You got me. And you know, if, if some give and take because there’s a lot of things that in it like I say, we know each other and I know, you know, you’ve been through a lot and I can’t imagine what you go through as a as a grown man from 34 to where you are now. I mean you can you probably get tell me the stories I love, man. I know you’re looking at it this way but trust me, if you want to do it this way. So, I mean, like I say, some give and take. But I love talking with you and working with you because you have that give and take respect relationship you like. Look, I’m not going to shove something down your throat I want to know what you want to bring to the table so that that’s what we need. We need more people around the table like that, like Luke. Matt Angle being alone. So I’m gonna give it the time. You got to be ready to guess what you doing.
LeMario Brown: Yeah, exactly, man. Exactly. And I was. So do you know Frank Taylor of Mississippi by the same name? So when he went to Southern Dad leadership program, I guess he was in a Villiers class, right? Yeah. Yeah. You know, Frank putting on the brakes, I got that big booming voice in the corner. Yes. But his daughters in a class with me, too. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well I talked with him earlier today and he was echoing the same thing that you said.
Brennan Washington: Lamarre All that has to be if we’re gonna tackle a lot of the issues that face rural areas, specifically with just generation generational issues in general. There has to be more of a spirit of cooperation between organizations. You know, it’s all this turf war stuff. It’s got to go. You know, and one thing I was telling, I was really proud about how Mississippi, those organizations seem to be starting to work to really work together. I think they brought in three or four beginning farmer rancher grants.
LeMario Brown: Oh, wow. Wow. That’s good.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. And so they’re just doing that type of work. So when did you get a pecan grove.
LeMario Brown: Man, oh, man. Little as I was talking about the farm and about the animals, I thought I was like, wait a minute. I just forgot all about the five acre pecan grove man. So a march, right.
LeMario Brown: So I was actually I was run out to his true store. I ran out to the cemetery to visit, you know, my my grandparents, great black. So I was always noted to speak and grow that, you know, it sits out on the, you know, the far left side as I’m as I’m going to the to the grave. So, you know, one day I was like, either way. I said, no, because I knew the guy. They own it. And I said, let me call him because he’s he’s actually he used to be the president of Fort State University. And he was also the county commissioner for here in Pierce County for eight years as well. He retired, but he was like, you know it. I’ll tell you what he’s like. Well, if you want to work this weekend or his allies, you do. He’s like, man. Because back in 19, I think he said a 97. He had an issue where I think he had asthma. He had asthma attack. And his doctor told him the reason he didn’t have the, you know, as a problem was because the spray. I guess he was spraying on the poor countries.
LeMario Brown: So you had to tell him he can’t go back out anyway. So he advises like, well, you know what, Lamario, is this your lucky day? Because he can’t do nothing with it anyway.
LeMario Brown: You know, you. I mean, like, we worked out a deal. And luckily, this year we did it. We signed the lease in March where this year I got my information in time enough where I was able to take advantage of the CSP program for our year for the claim. Clover, you know, just having it for conservation purposes. So that worked out good. You know, we’ve actually we’ve cleared the majority of the pecan grove off. It is like I say, it’s been dormant for the past twenty five years, I think. Wow. So I got to get a scow. I got to get some guys to come out to look at them and make sure, you know, we can actually get some production done. But I’m I’m actually excited. You know, he told me he planted a man. Man, I want to say he planted in ninety three, I think. Wow. So they’re they’re fairly I don’t want to say older but they’re ready for production.
LeMario Brown: If we can get some fertilizer bottom covered crop, though, our season is a marginal to the ground and you know, we’ll be we’ll be rolling hopefully next year. And I can I can bring you some peacan, man. And hopefully the wife can whip me some p.k and fire me.
Brennan Washington: All right, man, we can do a little bartering like that in that a little bit botter and like that.
Brennan Washington: And so, Lemario, I’ve read this article that was in the Black Farmers Network. So, first of all, what does that network. That was the first time I’d ever heard of that.
LeMario Brown: Her name is Dr. Womack. She is. I think she told me she worked. She worked with. It was.
LeMario Brown: I can’t think of the organization right now. How are you? I’m sorry you asked me. Yes, there is.
LeMario Brown: There’s been a long day. But the other day they reached out to me, though. Her name was Candace. I think the hand is done today. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And she she’s actually with the I think it’s organization called Black Cow Girls or something like that.
LeMario Brown: So she’s doing that.
LeMario Brown: Yes. No, I’m sorry. Is Southern. Cause she’s gonna she’s gonna kill me. The method is for this style. And there that’s the name of her organization. But she works with Dr. Womack and she actually just I think she got a grant last year to do some some work around black farmers and the challenges as far as when it come to acquiring land. And, you know, what does it take to actually be production, to meet, to be productive as a as a black farmer? And also, she wanted to see if we were we were interested in actually hosting the conference, a young black farmer conference in Fort Valley Spring 2020. So she and the part about it, she knows the president here at the university. She said they work together. I think it was Georgia State, that I think she see what he used to be the president. Where they worked together. So she was like, hey, you know, I know that you. Where is he? This would be this. This’ll be a good PR for a peace charity. You know that the brain surrounding farmers, you know, into the to the community. So we can actually talk about the issues and hopefully get some some some good things out of the conference.
Brennan Washington: So. Oh, okay. You know, as planning for that under way now.
Yes. Yes. There we are. We actually had a meeting about two weekends ago. You know, Cedrick Rowe, right? Yes. The peanut form and out of all been gone.
Brennan Washington: He just crossed that. He gets his grant.
LeMario Brown: Yeah. Yeah. I’m praying for him, too, man. So. Yeah, and the other young lady Keneshia Miller sees see that he informed over in Collodion, Georgia.
LeMario Brown: So she’s doing she’s doing a lot of I think she does Rockhopper and she does can and as far as like Jelly’s pies and different things like that. So she she got a lot going on. But so the three of us, you know, see, they pull they pull us in as the local farmers here in Peach County and pretty much I guess the black was in Georgia that they knew, you know, that was young. And they do have a story. I actually just thought our three of us. So when I get time, I’ll see you do those, please.
Brennan Washington: Yeah.
LeMario Brown: They have some awesome stores like you. I mean, I know there’s a weirdo like, wait a minute. I didn’t know all this about you.
LeMario Brown: Yeah, I got a lot going on.
LeMario Brown: I’ve got to get out of there. So, you know, we, you know, meeting him back, looking at doing some future or peanut. Something in the future.
Brennan Washington: So. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. He he’s really, really humble to see how he accomplished all the stuff he has accomplished as his young age. You know nothing about it that much you know.
LeMario Brown: Yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And that’s why I told him, you know, because someone had to tell me that. And I was like, look, nobody goes there. Your story like you. So you got to make sure you have their story ready. So when it’s time to sell it, you can sell it well. So I was like, you know.
LeMario Brown: And he started to do that. Now he’s like, man. You know, that’s why I want to get out. Do these interviews start doing, you know, more interact and more networking? Because we miss that opportunity, because we don’t network with each other. And that’s that’s one thing I see as black people. We don’t do enough or we don’t we don’t use our resources. We don’t reach out to each other. When when I pick out somebody, you want them, you’d like me. And I also met you, like you were saying, farmers and actually put a put a grant in. You know, they didn’t actually kind of reach out to understand about like wait a minute. So you have sort of referred to the role you had. You decide. And to not use them like what what part of being successful is that? That’s exactly that’s the system we use. A resource makes you you reach out to the people around you to make sure you are successful and what you don’t.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, Lamario, your form, I’m sure you, your father and a lot of old timers down at Fort Valley can tell you about the times when U.S.D.A. didn’t even want to have anything to do with black film. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Elgin would tell them that Dave Dave used up all their funding for programs. So now as you’res getting a more diverse labor force at some of these agencies. It’s just crazy that people approach them, you know?
LeMario Brown: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And most of the time they’re out there, they’re wanting you to ask these questions because, you know, I think that’s that’s you know what? That’s that’s another problem we have is black folks. And even me, before I actually start reaching out, you know, we’re we’re afraid of actually asking certain questions because we don’t know where that line is. We don’t we don’t understand the law enough to know it’s not a conflict of interest. If the rep is actually telling you how to get this money, they’re requirement that they actually they have written out. So it’s their job to tell you how to get this money. So, you know, and I think that’s our issue. We’re a little timid when it come to that. And we just to kind of get around that and just realize, hey, this is public information.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, there’s some historical precedent just based upon a lot of discrimination from the USDA. People may be a little bit gun shy now, but you’re right. SITUATION has changed and I didn’t.
LeMario Brown: But, you know, farmer farmer told me, I mean, a good job. He knows me. Changed. But we still got a problem in the White House and there’s not a Trump. And I was like, oh, okay. Yeah. You absolutely right about it. Well, I don’t I don’t know. You know, there’s there’s this little opinion we at certain farmers and I couldn’t tell him. You know, one way or the other. Cause I mean that there’s farmers that I know and they say there’s programs that there that President Trump has, he’s implemented that actually works out in their favor. So, you know, I can’t say, you know, different strokes for different folks.
Brennan Washington: So, you know, I got it. Yeah. I have my feelings about President Trump. But I will say this is that agricultural policy just doesn’t move through him. So, yeah, I mean, everybody’s making a big deal about this tariff thing. But there was also some really, really good things that happened for small scale sustainable agriculture over the last several years. After the same program, we got a bump. They finally gave the twenty five or one program baseline funding. So if you just get caught up with who’s at the top, they get a mess. And a lot of the good stuff that’s happening, you know, there’s black and white politicians in rural areas. At the end of the day, they’re going to have some of the same issues. And go back to the point you you brought out earlier when we first started talking. Is that a lot of the stuff is local? Lemario That’s right. A lot of loose change happens. Like I hear people complain about Commissioner Gary Black and a lot I happen to like. Yeah. Yeah, I was surprised he came as close. I mean, he won pretty comfortably, but he should have been as close as it was and. Right. Democrat who was opposing him. I don’t even think he had a background in agriculture. But I think what happened and a lot of people want which is going to that voting booth and just pulling the lever for a Democrat. Right. Not knowing, you know, what their position does. And, you know, Commissioner Black is going to be there’s a. Big AG in the state of Georgia. And he’s going to care about big AG. But I’m going to tell you, I feel he got in there. Those of us who do the work that we do, we pretty much everybody it’s totally legit department. Right. Right. He’s shown himself to be open minded and willing to at least listen. You know what?
LeMario Brown: Well, you know, a funny story, though. I don’t know if he remembers me where I say it one day when I, you know, probably become president out while term. Hey, you remember me? Where are we?
LeMario Brown: We actually had I had my intern at the Department of Agriculture. But I actually did mine through the Animal Protection Division. And, you know, he was the state veterinarian for a long time. Oh, I don’t. Yeah. We actually had to have a meeting before they. And this was around two thousand seven two thousand eight. This was like my senior year when I started my intern. They were actually get ready to put a I think it was the equine or either a adoption center at the women’s prison down in hawkensbill. And you know, he you know, we had to have a meeting and I’ve seen it on the Internet. Just listen at some of the stuff that he was talking about. I could tell that he actually had a more agriculture background than anybody in the room because he will say things like, OK, so what about who’s gonna feed me? As far as this?
LeMario Brown: You know, what kind of what kind of help is going to be? And he would actually always bring it back to the veterinarian so that he would start with the agricultural piece and like you say, like it. He made this identify with Republicans, but his philosophy is for the entire people, you know. So I’m like. I mean, like I say, I don’t I don’t get caught up in the color lines too much. You know, I just I focus on the issues. And I think this is completely wrong, man, that certain people before me in your time just felt like it was OK to draw lines in the sand and you rep a certain color. You know, we go feel you. You know, you can’t get to this day. So, I mean, this is just a lot of the this is just crazy the way that we as a whole have to just let go and just move forward and try to be productive with what we’re doing in today’s society.
Brennan Washington: So Lemario on your work, I want to talk to you about just a little bit of a pet peeve of mine. And you know, I’ve been advocating for urban ag for quite some time.
Brennan Washington: Now it’s all the rage. You know what? Even they’re even starting an agency within USDA to deal with urban things, which I think is good. Right. But I never was under the impression that urban agriculture was going to feed the world. I thought it had. I thought it could do some good things about addressing food insecurity in some urban areas and addressing food deserts. that type of stuff and connecting people more with their local food system, we are really sort of big value. Urban ag was getting to act as a gateway from the more rural communities with the landholdings are a lot larger and where we can grow a lot more food with those urban markets. unfortunately, at least I’m not seeing that happen. I know Mrs. Shirley Sherrod is something that she gets very frustrated about, something I’m going to try to be working with her to advance is just how do we connect those farmers. And Fort Valley in Albany with some of these larger markets, often in Atlanta, Georgia. I just want to get your thoughts about that.
LeMario Brown: Well, I mean, most people, they always say, hey, man, but my city is the best to be in. We got D, we got wet print. I’m telling you, for Valley is a central location to everything, like wheat, like we’re not so congested that you can’t get in and out of Fort Valley and do what you got to do. So, you know, the idea of having lack of lack of May at state processing facility here, county is not a bad idea because I mean, we sit right in the center of Columbus, Savannah. And even Tip is not that far.
LeMario Brown: But you say it’s to get to the big market of Atlanta and some of these other metro metro cities, like you got to have a small hub. And I think Fort Valley is conducive for that. Yes. I mean, we have a university there that their training is USDA inspected. And here we are, Defeatable Valley. We don’t take a benefit of it. You know, we just lost the grocery store because we we don’t well, problem production and our producers here import it like I can remember stories. Tell me where, you know, they they didn’t know what to do with some of the food that the farmers bought here. Informa, because it was a it was an abundance of it.
LeMario Brown: You know, you had a guy from Mozilla, which is making county Taylor County even from making come into full Vallet, you know, because they knew that this was the market to actually sell, you know, your produce. For me, I mean, every every councilman or elected official gone there, they’re going to advocate for their community. I’m telling you, Peach County is thriving for some economic development. We have some great incentive practice that we can actually offer some business owner that definition. And they really want to invest in some. Some big ag and some probably get a good investment on their, you know, a good return on their investment. No, I think we really do need to have a serious conversation with the university, the local stakeholders, the state, you know, because they’re going to benefit because you can actually clear some of these food deserts like Taylor County, the next county over from me, they like probably twelve, twelve miles from where else they’ll even have a grocery store, their nearest growth of maybe 30 miles from them. And it’s like in a whole nother state. And I’m like, that’s just that’s crazy. Like they don’t have a farmer around there. Process and their food is at least picking the greens and selling them. We don’t know if they are. So, you know, I think we have to do a better job of finding those local farmers and like you say, in the urban areas, in the urban area and actually helping them tell the story. And I think that’s what Black Farmers Network does. That’s one of their biggest things, like they want to put out more of the stores that we’re doing. Like if you have a good testimony of urban agriculture here in Atlanta or formalwear, you maybe they want to come to your place and share your store and spread it to the people around you so they can actually start benefit from that fresh produce or that person food or, you know, just having a grocery store or some kind of farmer’s market is within, you know, miles of you.
LeMario Brown: Yeah, I feel like if I can’t express enough, this is crazy that we don’t like the government to make sure every community have a grocery store like you like any crazy. Every community has a post office, but you don’t have a grocery store. Every community has a jail, but you don’t have a grocery store like that because stuff that bother me is the black.
LeMario Brown: That’s what I get heated about. Like we waste like just tax money. I was on this crazy stuff, man. So let me get out myself some.
Brennan Washington: So I mean, that’s I guess that’s what this show is all about. I’m sure I’m gonna have some people disagree with you would have once I put this episode up. But that’s what it’s about. It’s about it’s about stimulating conversation. So before you go, I let you go. I’m want you mentioned pure flavor. I want you to talk a little bit about that, because that was a pretty innovative project.
Brennan Washington: And as we heard, a little bit of something that you helped get behind in a forceful way. What can you talk? Tell us your listeners a little bit about what that whole project is about and what’s about. OK, so.
LeMario Brown: So the Pure Flavor there, I think, is gonna end up being one hundred and forty acre hydroponic greenhouse.
LeMario Brown: They’re starting out with tomatoes and cucumbers. And it’s no secret that the state of Georgia allows and they’re allowing the University of Georgia and for their state university to actually practice and do some research on medical marijuana, which is a booming market here for the next couple years here in Georgia. So I really believe that that’s the overall plan. You know, I mean, that’s been on his brain. I mean, you can you can grow a lot of tomatoes. But I think the from from the from the the worried I’m getting from the medical resources that I have, they’re saying it’s actually some breakthrough and some real actual research that can be done that probably can help out some of the autistic kids, some of the Down syndrome issues, some of the more of the obesity issues like I’ve never heard him talk about. And I’ve always heard about glaucoma, you know, vision problems. So, you know, I mean, there’s a lot of a lot of good things that could possibly come out of this research. And I think the state legislators saw that and the governor saw and they felt like there was a great thing to at least give these to research universities in the state opportunity to actually do it. And back to the point, triple-A play located in Fort Valley for a reason.
LeMario Brown: And that land that we actually worked to get them, you know, it was a decent, decent price that they actually got it for a time. I don’t think they could have got it. You know, in another community, cheaper, they got here peacefully. But that’s part of the incentive effect is that we can offer you here. Currently, we have low cost when when you’re talking about real estate, you know, there and there’s a lot of investment that can be done here. And like I said, you are your return would be very, very lucrative if you can actually get in the right market. And I think that’s what proof labor. So I’m sure they know some lobbyists that actually went in and lobbied for, you know, that legislation. That’s that’s how politics work over the squeaky wheel, get the muscle. So unfortunately, some of the people they like, they may they may disagree with marijuana being plants in the state of Georgia. But let’s see how the tax, you know, dodgers look after the next couple of years once it is full in effect. And actually we’re reaping the benefits the way we’re supposed to recommend, not just, you know, we’re just having what they call it Monday to call it the Woodstock concert.
LeMario Brown: You even know what it is meant to say. I thought more about. Hey.
Brennan Washington: Yeah, yes. I think that’s going to be we you and I have been trying to work to get some meat processing down there and.
Brennan Washington: That’s a project that’s entirely dead yet. I think we go we’ll have better law and a quicker return on getting some sort of vegetable processing done down there. Absolutely. Absolutely. As opposed to meat originally. And I know Fort Valley was looking at doing some sort of packing house. I think the building they were looking at. Oh, yeah. Interesting. Yeah. It will cost too much to retrofit, I think is what I heard about it. So. But like you said, is plenty of land and stuff down there.
Brennan Washington: And I love the work that you’re doing, man. And to my fellow Southern AG, suddenly university ag leadership alumni you keep up with. Appreciate you taking some time with me today.
LeMario Brown: May I have a little bit of a look? I told my dad I got I got to run and do this interview for Brennan. His lawyer tells him to say, hey, man. So, you know, here we are full of Alex, not bad girls and goat meat.
Brennan Washington: We’re looking for a hold on that guy. Want to hear his version of the bull event that happened down?
LeMario Brown: Oh, I owe you. Oh, man. Because I know he has a funny take on it. Yeah, it is.
LeMario Brown: It’s kind of weird, man. I think they got it all worked out. They went to some training over at Southern University, which was pretty good. So, you know, and I think it boiled down to the university not really being up to speed on the type of tools that they actually need.
LeMario Brown: I don’t think that there is no person on the university campus that would actually harm any animal, you know, research or use their, you know, for production reasons like, you know, I mean, we have a state of the art facility and the way they process those animals there is this like the best I’ve ever seen ever, the best job I’ve seen anywhere.
LeMario Brown: So, you know, like I said, I said to me, I mean, I don’t have a problem with PETA, you know, doing what they do, because sometimes you need to kind of poke the bear and make sure, like, look, let’s make sure this didn’t happen the way it was actually reported that happened, because there’s a lot of times things like that do happen. Dobrin in St. Louis know everybody at a low heaven was like we do media, you know, even though we have the heat and, you know, it’s part of the whole survival of life. But there’s a way that you do everything. You know, you don’t just go out at the top of your head just because you feel like it. There’s a way to do everything. Yeah.
Brennan Washington: Yeah. All right. Lamarre, I want to thank you, man. Looking forward to seeing you. So you go into any news conferences this year, SOG, Georgia, again?
LeMario Brown: Yes, I’ll definitely be at the service thought conference. I’m looking forward to that man. Hopefully I could catch up with Fred Scott. You know, he’s the young mayor over in Little Rock, Arkansas. Oh, hopefully I missed him last year. But I’m we’re trying to catch up with men and, you know, talk about the idea that there are some great things as far as urban ag in Little Rock as well. So that’s why I want to kind of pick his brain and see what we can do in a smaller city, like for about 35 minutes.
Brennan Washington: All right. Well, I’ll be there. So looking forward to seeing you. And thanks again for joining us on a sustainable ag rider podcast.
LeMario Brown: All right. Have a good one. Thank you again. And a wife will say hello. I sure will. Thanks.
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