LEBANON, TN — The Wilson County Black History Committee (WCBHC) paid tribute to 30 African American farmers and their families at a gala evening on Sept. 24 at the Capitol Theatre in Lebanon, before the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) mails its 2022 census forms this November to survey their yields.
The 103-year-old Clyde Thomas Woods was honored by the WCBHC with a certificate of appreciation at the 9th Annual Harvest Heritage Wine & Cheese Celebration for his lifelong dedication to raising mostly livestock, tobacco, and hay in Wilson County in the town of Commerce.
Since Mr. Woods could not be present, industry leaders James Cason, Sonya Smith Wright, Dalydia Cason Clemmons, Rev. Andrea Clemmons, and Brenda Ward accepted the designation on behalf of his service from WCBHC President Mary Harris and WCBHC Board Member Jo Pride before about 125 guests.
The Harvest Heritage Wine & Cheese Celebration gave table sponsors an opportunity on Sept. 24 to “Feed the Farmer” that night by buying their meals. Absolute Kubota, Edwards Feeds, Wilson Farmers Co-Op, and Farm Bureau Insurance of Tennessee were agriculture businesses that reserved seats.
Tennessee Cheesecake furnished the desserts for a “Cheesecake Celebration,” as a local wholesaler from Lebanon. The Tennessee Farm Winegrowers Alliance sampled vintages during a “Sweet Wines Celebration” that night, and distributed maps of its wineries.
WCBHC generates funds from the annual benefit for the restoration of the slave-built 1827 sanctuary of Pickett Chapel in Lebanon into an African American arts, heritage, and cultural museum center. Absolute Kubota, The Nashville Sounds, Nearest Green Distillery, Earl Swensson Associates, and others donated items for the Silent Auction.
The City of Lebanon, Cumberland University, Lebanon First United Methodist Church, and Smith-Wright Law Firm were also among the organizations who bought tickets along with individual donors. Besides dinner, there was dancing to the jazz and blues Regi Wooten Band.
WCBHC’s vision and mission is to tell the stories of the lives of Blacks in Wilson County through education, events, and exhibits. It has programming throughout the year at its new Annex.
Once every five years, the USDA census tallies the number of Blacks and other races this November that operate in America on plots of land with $1,000 or more in income from animals, fruits, and/or vegetables.
Wilson County identified 39 farmers in 2017 who were Black or African American from the 2,683 in all mostly raising grains, hay, and cattle. The market value of items was $22.1 million in 2017 for its entire population that supported the agriculture of Tennessee.
The USDA records these statistics for determining the “voice, the future, the opportunity” of the nation’s growers. During the last USDA census in 2017, the overwhelming majority of the 3.2 million in America were white for a total of 95 percent. Tennessee had 983 farms in 2017 with at least one Black or African American producer.