Sunday, May 25, 2008
My History Lesson With Nub The Farmer
With the price of seedless watermelons in the local grocery stores down to $4.50 each I theoretically have no more reason to stop by "Nub's Produce" after church on Sunday's to purchase one from him. His price for seedless remains at $8.50 and the seeded ones are $8.00. I will continue purchasing two of them from him because the value that I receive from him as I listen to him tell me the history of our area is worth more than the $4.00 spread. This is not some squishy "common good" or "social contract" justification for me willing to pay the extra money rather than having the corporate owned super market chain receive my proceeds. This is because can extract tangible value from what I hear from him and apply it both to my own life and that of my views regarding what our community must do next to transform ourselves.
The session opened as usual. First he pointed to the fact that he has to sell his corn at $0.75 per ear. Then he says "Let me show you this" as he reaches for his brown paper bag of seed corn. (I never knew that the seed was red.) He says "See this? I paid $12.00 per pound for this when just a short time ago it was only $3. Its those oil companies using this corn for cars that is driving up the price that I have to pay. People don't understand why I have to charge $0.75". Like groundhog day he repeats this same message, as if this was the first time that he has told this story to me.
Today, however, I learned more about Nub's farming situation. I always assumed that he was the owner of the two fields that he plants on. He is not. There is a White family that owns several parcels of land. For more than 40 years the father allowed Nub to plant on this land.......and has NEVER ASKED HIM FOR A DIME to lease the property for his usage. I had always thought that the house up the hill was Nub's. It is not. He actually lives several miles to the west in Peachtree City he told me today.
He went on to tell me how things used to be in the area. Prior to the four lane divided highway there was only one road. He used to be able to plow right up to the road but when they built up the road the land was cut back to its current form. He told me that prior to having access to this specific plot of land he used to be a sharecropper for cotton for a variety of White men in the area. It was common practice that after sharecroppers had worked to harvest the crop for the entire season and then settle up with the land owner that he would come out behind. That balance is rolled over to next year. Thus he would not get a dime for all of his work. He told me that the rabbits, squirrels and deer that are still present in the area was a main part of their meal just to get by. Just think - as I look out of my back window I can see 3 rabbits sitting in my grass. These same creatures that I open my door to allow my dog to chase into the bushes for fun at one time was a key source of nutrition for them back in the day. These same brown rabbits and gray squirrels that are so often road kill today.
Despite this period of injustice and basic subsistence Nub was most proud of the fact that his 5 children are all successful in their own way. He is 82 and thus they are all nearing retirement age or have done so. Just think about that point. Where as today, seemingly, the prevailing sentiment among the popular Black political class is that we "can't do" or at least "we can't be expected to do as well" as others on tests that measure the same people across the board because we don't have equal access to resources. This mentality expands into being a cause for mental unemployment as those who are so charged set out to obtain the resources while seemingly not asking the people to fully maximize what they do have. Indeed Nub has much to be proud of in his children. Despite the raw state of economic justice that he faced over the lifetime - his bottom line end result speaks for itself.
We seemingly invest more stock into the "chase for justice" than the preparation of ourselves and our people for the day when "that last law is passed" or lawsuit is won where we now stand on that proverbial "equal playing field" that has the perfectly landscaped.........but we don't know how to operate the construction equipment that will allow us to build up any structures upon that land as someone else's Bobcat was used to do all of the grading.
There is a for sale/lease sign posted right in the land that he now farms on. Now that I know the details regarding his ownership - it is clear that when a developer chooses to make use of this land - Nub will have to find a new plot of land with an equally favorable agreement if he is going to continue to do what he does. On this strip of land off of GA Hwy 54 is an expanse of strip malls that seem to pop up like mushrooms, churches, and a large quantity of medical offices all hubbed around the hospital which is about a mile down the road to the east.
Nub told me that he already has his burial ground paid for for he and his wife who is also 82 years old. There is a strange alignment of progression between his moving on to a better place and a pending land transaction. I personally hope that he lives a much longer life AND the for sale sign fades just like the sign on his road side fruit and vegetable stand.