Top employer John Deere elevates Black farming legacy film launch

Top employer John Deere elevates Black farming legacy film launch

 June 28, 2023

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Working for an employer that values fairness is empowering, and the careers on offer can certainly be impactful. 

An example of John Deere's ongoing commitment to fairness is its support for an important new film documentary.

John Deere announced the world premiere of Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land – an Al Roker Entertainment, Inc and Eternal Polk film which spotlights black farmer challenges and heirs’ property.  The documentary examines the impact of heirs’ property – property passed to family members by inheritance, usually without a will or estate planning strategy. The documentary is a stirring documentary exploring these issues and the experiences of people impacted by land loss.

The amount of black-owned farmland has steadily declined in the United States. There are many reasons for this, but Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land focuses on the subject of heirs' property laws, how they contribute to this trend, and what's being done to counter them.

For generations, Black landowners acquired millions of acres of farmland. But today approximately 90 per cent of that land is no longer theirs — going from roughly 19 million acres to about 3 million in less than a century. That land loss equates to about USD 326 billion of lost value.

To help Black farmers and landowners keep their land, in 2020 John Deere established the LEAP Coalition in partnership with the National Black Growers Council and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which works to eliminate barriers created by heirs’ property and to provide resources for farmers and landowners to resolve heirs’ property issues.

"Heirs’ property is the main cause of involuntary land loss for Black landowners today. It’s a huge challenge for Black families regarding their most valuable resource," explains Tharlyn Fox, LEAP Coalition Manager at John Deere.

John Deere tharlyn fox LEAP

What happened?

A new documentary focuses on the legacy of Black farming in America and the devastating impact of heirs’ property – property passed to family members by inheritance, usually without a will or proper estate planning. Without a clear title, Black farmers are unable to qualify for government assistance, equipment financing, or agricultural programs designed to optimize their land.

“Right now, heirs’ property is something that impacts Black farmers disproportionately,” says Marc Howze, Senior Advisor for the office of the chairman, John Deere. “They can’t leverage the land like other landowners can. In fact, they can’t even sell it for what it’s worth because it doesn’t have clear title."

Unlocking Value

Having clear title not only unlocks the land’s value but opportunities for the property owners. Just ask Michael Robinson whose family owns the 82-year-old Ely Farm in Barlow Bend, Alabama.

“Garlic an acre can generate $40,000 in revenue,” Robinson said. “And so even if we’re not farming it ourselves, we have an opportunity to do land leasing to people who are interested in farming. We want to take advantage of the monetization opportunities on the land going forward.”

More on Gaining Ground

"The message of this documentary is clear,” explains Marc Howze. “We need to do more to help Black farmers and landowners unlock the tremendous value in the land they already own to help us feed, clothe and shelter a growing population while pursuing opportunities to build wealth and provide a legacy for future generations.”

Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land, examines the causes, effects, and what is being done to retain the land.

The film highlights farmers' stories and how organizations like the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and the Center for Heirs'​ Property Preservation are helping them keep their land.

The first public showing of the documentary was held at the American Black Film Festival in Miami USA, with more screenings in store at further film festivals across the USA.

Make a difference in a role with John Deere 

John Deere is committed to driving equality across the land.

Work for this progressive employer that highly values fairness and inclusion. 


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