Glory Foods Plants Seeds for Economic Development in Mississippi

Black Farmers in Delta Region Lease Land to Ohio Company

Jun 11, 1998, 01:00 ET from Glory Foods, Inc.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Glory Foods, Inc., a manufacturer
 of convenient Southern-Style food products, has invested $6,000 to lease 128
 acres of land from the Sweet Potato Growers' Association Cooperative (SPGAC)
 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi to plant sweet potatoes and okra.  Under the lease
 agreement, Glory Foods will purchase the crops and market a percentage as
 fresh produce.  "The idea of growing vegetables in the Delta and transporting
 and marketing them to Northern states has always been a dream for us and Glory
 Foods has made this dream an economic reality," stated Atty. Bruce Johnson, an
 agri-lawyer with SPGAC.
     Ensuring quality control of Glory's vegetables begins in the field and
 with the farmers.  A company-owned 400-acre farm in Society Hill, South
 Carolina supplies a large percentage of the company's annual needs, and
 contracts with black farmers in this region and in South Georgia, provides
 additional product support.  Glory's relationship with black farmers began in
 the early 90's through an alliance with The Federation of Southern
 Cooperatives Land Assistant Fund (FSCLAF), an advocacy organization that
 provides technical support and hands on services to black farmers.  Through
 FSCLAF Glory contracted with a small network of black farmers in Florence,
 South Carolina to grow select vegetables for its canned products.  The
 relationship was productive and profitable for both parties, and Glory gained
 valuable insight on the issues and challenges facing these farmers.  "As a
 business owner who relies on the services of farmers, I can't wait for their
 problems to subside without attempting to make a difference in the outcome.
 Our support strengthens their value and ensures a future that must include
 their input and participation," explained Bill Williams, president, Glory
     Working with Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development
 (MDECD) and Alcorn State University Extension/Research Demonstration Farm, to
 explore the feasibility of a processing and production facility in Mound
 Bayou, Williams met with representatives from SPGAC to explore investment
 opportunities in the area.  SPGAC consisted of twenty-three black farmers from
 the Delta Region who were already experiencing difficulty in securing much
 needed governmental funding for the planting season.  Williams, impressed with
 the investment opportunities outlined in a proposal submitted by Atty. Johnson
 agreed to lease the acres.  Glory's investment made it possible to plant the
 seeds for harvesting and economic progress.  "We didn't have high hopes of
 anyone coming here because we're an all-black town and the stigma attached is
 not always a positive one.  We're a strong community with a proud heritage and
 Glory's presence is very important to us," said Mayor Nerissa Norman, Mound
 Bayou's first female Mayor.
     Milton Chambliss, project manager with MDECD, echoes similar sentiments.
 "Glory's support gives the assurance that these crops will be sold and the
 farmers will reap a return on their investment.  Also, the larger issue is
 revitalization of the Mound Bayou area.  As the farming industry thrives so
 does the need for employment and businesses that can provide the support and
 services needed by these farmers."
     Mound Bayou, located in Bolivar County, is experiencing an economic
 revival thanks in part to its designation as an Empowerment Zone.  Listed as
 one of the oldest historic black townships in America, this rural farming
 community founded in 1887 by the ex-slaves of Joe Davis, brother of
 confederate president Jefferson Davis, became an impressive model for social
 and economic empowerment.  Cotton was a booming industry and the town
 prospered under black leadership until the Great Depression created an
 economic tailspin.  Businesses closed, blacks migrated North to cities like
 Chicago and Detroit and the farming industry which had begun to decline after
 the Civil War was hard hit by foreclosures and governmental seizures.
     Overall between 1910 and 1920 blacks lost 17 million acres of land they
 either farmed of owned outright, and today they own less than 2.5 million
 acres.  According to the U.S. Census of Agriculture, there's close to 18,000
 black farmers nationwide with less than 2,500 scattered throughout regions in
 Mississippi.  "Farming is a legacy that passes from one generation to the next
 and for the black farmer, that legacy is in jeopardy," added Williams.
     Glory Foods' prominence as a manufacturer of convenient Southern-Style
 food products is attributed to the fresh taste of their pre-seasoned canned
 vegetables reminiscent of homemade.  The recent introduction of Glory Foods
 Southern Selections, a new line of family-size frozen entrees and side dishes
 continues the company's tradition of providing "convenient, good tasting
 Southern foods" and gives consumers another alternative to their meal
     Support of black farmers continues Glory Foods' commitment to promote the
 presence of blacks in agriculture by providing the resources to assist in
 training and development.  Glory Foods established scholarships at two
 universities earmarked for minority students desiring to pursue degrees in
 agri-business.  The company also awards annual scholarships to minority
 students enrolled in Ohio State University's Minorities in Agriculture,
 Natural Resources and Related Science Program (MANRRS), a nationally
 recognized program for minority students studying agricultural science and
 leadership development.  North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State
 College has also established Glory Foods Scholarship for Food and Nutritional
 Science majors.  Williams also co-chairs fund-raising efforts for Ohio State's
 College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences where the goal is to
 raise $7 million in scholarship endowments over the next five years for
 minority students.

SOURCE Glory Foods, Inc.