Volume 8, Number 18 November 17, 2005
The William Muhammad Agriculture Building
by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad
On November 12, 2005 Dr. Ridgely A. Muímin Muhammad announced that Muhammad Farms would name its planned agricultural training building and dormitory the "William Muhammad Agriculture Building". On Tuesday, November 15, 2005 our beloved brother and pioneer, Bro. William Muhammad, departed from us at the age of 104. We had hoped to have raised the money to put up the building before he had passed so that he could see that his work and name would not be forgotten by those who benefited from his expertise and sacrifice.
Bro. William was one of the few Black farmers that we still have. We now must develop a new breed of farmers and agricultural professionals, if Black people intend to be ready to "do for self or die a slave" as the victims of hurricane Katrina learned. The government of the United States showed the world that it either does not care or can not help those who can not help themselves. Young Black people have called us or emailed us at Muhammad Farms wanting to know how they could become farmers. Unfortunately, I had to tell them that I did not know of any university that actually taught how to farm. The agricultural programs at the universities, both Black and white, train students for careers in the agribusiness industry but not how to run a farm. In many cases an agricultural student may go through four years of training and never set foot on a real farm.
Farming requires a set of skills that one can only obtain through a combination of field experience and classroom training. Skilled farmers attend many seminars sponsored by their local agricultural extension service to keep up with the latest production techniques and advances. They obtain and pass on to their sons, daughters and other farm workers their most important skills by hands-on experience.
However, the policies and practices of the USDA has destroyed the desire for farming as a vocation in the children of Black farmers. The Pigford v. Glickman class action lawsuit may have been the final nail in the coffin of Black farmers. The Black farmersí children are astute enough to know that as an individual it would be committing economic suicide to take over and run their parentsí farms. To combat this, the Nation of Islamís Ministry of Agriculture has advanced the idea of a system of agriculture where control is maintained "from the land to the man" and we are involved in all phases of food production, processing and distribution.
I came down to Georgia in February of 1995 as the farm manager. I came with undergraduate and graduate training and degrees in agricultural economics. However, I had enough sense to know that I needed the advice of an experienced farmer from this area of the country to be my farm production adviser. Allah (God) had preserved such a one in the person of Bro. William Muhammad.
Bro. William was 93 years old when I met him. He had been the advisor for this same farm in Georgia in the 1960s and Ď70s under the leadership of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad. At that time the farm was not 1600 acres but 4500 acres.
When I got here in Georgia, Bro. William taught me about the soils, the climate, what types of crops grew well down here, the time to plant, how deep to plant the seeds, where to get the best seeds, where to find the right equipment, how to fight the weeds and insects, how to fix old used equipment, what business people to deal with and which to stay away from. In other words he taught me what I could never get in a classroom and therefore could never teach to students in my courses that I taught at North Carolina A&T State University. He not only taught me, but he had the strength and vigor to demonstrate what he taught although he was in his 90s.
As I stated earlier, Bro. William was here on this same farm 30 years before I got to Georgia. The Honorable Elijah Muhammad put him on post and Allah (God) left him in a position to guard this farm even after the farm was sold on the departure of the Messenger. He told me how painful it was to see this farm sold off. He could have gone back to Detroit, but decided to stay here in the hopes that one day we would get this farm back. Imagine waiting, hoping and praying some 20 years for a miracle of sorts.
In 1991 The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan put the same plan in action that was set up by the Messenger in 1963 called the "Three Year Economic Savings Program". He told me that he was just following in the footsteps of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and was redeeming the properties and putting back in place the programs of his teacher. Therefore, Bro. William Muhammad was brought out of storage to teach a new breed of farmers and we learned a lot from our brother.
Now we must set up a training facility in his name on Muhammad Farms, so that we can train that next breed of Black farmers. We need classrooms to teach them and dormitory rooms for them to spend some time on the farm working the land. We have had a number of young people and groups to visit Muhammad Farms for a day at a time. The young people were completely in awe over the size of the farm operation and the work and skills necessary to run this size of farm. Many of them were inspired to go back home and do further research as well as set up small gardens. Many of these same students have come year after year. Now we need a place for them to stay.
Eventually we will have a full agricultural university and training center at Muhammad Farms. The William Muhammad Agricultural Building will be the first facility established for this new growth of a needed and continuing institution for our people. We in the Nation of Islam understand that the man and woman are recognized by their works and remembered because of those works. One can live in the future based on the quality and effect of our work in the present. Bro. William Muhammad has done such great works that must be preserved and passed on to our new and never to die Nation of Islam.
Bro. William Muhammad will be remembered long after his funeral which will be held at 1:00 pm on Saturday, November 19, 2005 at the Albritten Funeral Home, 395 Cedar Hill Ave, Dawson, Ga.