“February is Black History Month, and as various industries around the United States celebrate the African American men and women who helped to share this nation, it’s important to remember the roles that those in agriculture played.” – AGDAILY Staff

What is Agriculture?

Agriculture in the United States is the practice of growing crops and raising animals for food, fiber, and other products. The agriculture industry includes a wide range of activities, from family farms to large-scale commercial operations, and it contributes significantly to the country’s economy and food supply.

African-American standing in garden. He’s holding crate of ripe peaches.

American History of Fruit Agriculture

Fruit agriculture has played a significant role in the economic and social history of the United States.
African Americans have also played a crucial role in the development of this industry, particularly in the cultivation and harvesting of fruits. This essay will explore the history of African-Americans in fruit agriculture in the United States, from slavery to the present day. 

The earliest records of African-American involvement in fruit agriculture can be traced back to the period of slavery. During this time, enslaved Africans were forced to work on plantations and farms, including those that produced fruit. African-American slaves played an essential role in the cultivation, harvesting, and processing of fruits, including peaches, apples, oranges, and grapes. Many slaves were skilled in agricultural work, and their knowledge and expertise were critical to the success of these industries. 


After the Civil War, African Americans continued to work in fruit agriculture, both as laborers and as independent farmers. Despite facing many challenges and discrimination, African American farmers were successful in cultivating and selling fruits, including watermelons, cantaloupes, and peaches. However, they often faced obstacles in accessing credit and markets, and many were forced to sell their products at lower prices than their white counterparts. 

Vineyard farmer picking grapes from vine tree plant during harvest season, working in countryside valley. Black woman in agriculture industry, carrying basket of ripe fruit for wine in nature field.

Despite these challenges, African American farmers continued to innovate and improve their farming techniques, leading to significant advances in fruit production. For example, George Washington Carver, an African American agricultural scientist, developed methods for growing and harvesting peanuts, which helped to improve soil fertility and increase crop yields. 

In the 20th century, African American farmers faced increasing competition from larger, industrialized farms, which often received preferential treatment from the government. As a result, many African-American farmers were forced to sell their land or abandon their farms altogether. However, some African-American farmers continued to innovate and find new ways to succeed in fruit agriculture, such as by specializing in niche markets or developing new varieties of fruits.


Today, African Americans continue to play a critical role in fruit agriculture in the United States, both as farmers and as workers. African American-owned farms account for a small but growing portion of the country’s fruit production, and many African Americans work in fruit orchards and processing plants across the country. 

In conclusion, African Americans have played a vital role in the history of fruit agriculture in the United States, from slavery to the present day. Despite facing many challenges and obstacles, African-American farmers and workers have made significant contributions to the development of the industry and continue to do so today. As the agricultural sector continues to evolve, it is essential to recognize and support the contributions of African Americans and promote greater diversity and equity in the industry. 

Today, African Americans continue to play a vital role in fruit agriculture, although they remain underrepresented in ownership and leadership positions. Efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in the industry are ongoing.


Historical African American Farmers:

  • George Washing Carver – An agricultural scientist and inventor, Carver developed a new method for crop rotation replenishing the soil with nitrogen and increasing productivity.   
  • John W. Boyd Jr. – Founded the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA), supporting farming and equal opportunity in the world of agriculture.
  • Henry Blair – Patent two inventions for productivity in planting corn and cotton. The design helped distribute seeds and promote weed control. 
  • Booker T. Whatley – A Horticulturist who wrote “How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres.” Whatley’s book offered smart and sustainable ways that farmers can minimize cost & waste while maximizing farm space.



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