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 Foods. 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 planning. 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.