By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
Anita Robinson is a Black farmer or “earth steward,” who specializes in growing vegetables, fruits and cut flowers without herbicides, pesticides and insecticides, as well as a beekeeper and owns Agriculture/Botanical Bites & Provisions.
AFRO: What is your exact job title? What are your responsibilities and duties and how do you execute your position?
AR: I think of myself as an earth steward or earth keeper because I believe that we are all pilgrims through this temporary life. It is every farmer’s responsibility to care for this sacred land responsibly because we must share it with our children, and generations to come, so that it will sustain them and help nurture them with good nutrition to meet their needs.
In contemporary parlance, I am a proud fourth generation farmer, specializing in growing healthy produce (vegetables, cut flowers, and fruits). This is why I take my responsibility so seriously because desecration of the earth has led us to climate changes, unspeakable diseases, through the use of so many herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. I am also a beekeeper that not only loves harvesting honey but making natural cosmetics (soaps, lip balms, lotions, and salves) from honey, herbs, and beeswax. My husband and I also serve as mentors for the Small Farm Outreach Program for Virginia State University’s Department of Agriculture and I serve on the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program.
AFRO: Are there many African Americans working in the agricultural and farming industry and does your racial background have any positive or negative effects on your work when you interact with others?
AR: I receive mixed reactions. Oftentimes, many folks who know nothing about me stop by my farm for the first time are very surprised to learn that I am an African-American female farmer, much less a beekeeper. Research shows that beekeeping originated in Africa and American agriculture got its strength from the slaves brought here from Africa.
Oftentimes, in selling my products I have been challenged about my prices, but I stand firm and refuse to sell high quality work for less (or wholesale) because I research and stay abreast of average market prices as listed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
On another positive note, last week I sold a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box of produce to a young African-American family and took them on a tour of my farm. The young daughter who was about 10 years old was totally enamored by the experience of seeing how food grows naturally and watching the bees fly in and out their hives. I was so happy to see such a young person so excited about agriculture, that I extended the invitation for her to come to the farm anytime she wanted to watch and learn from me. Hopefully, this weekend we will reconnect and I will have another opportunity to share and inspire a future agriculturalist.
AFRO: Has your business or job been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
AR: Yes, most definitely. At first everyone was scared to be around other people especially at the beginning after learning how deadly the virus is… even I, an older farmer. The farm operates by appointment only, so that we diminish the opportunities of congestion or overcrowding. Like other businesses, we had to make new purchases for safety signage, hand sanitizer, ample facemasks and gloves to keep products, customers, and ourselves safe.
But, COVID has been an opportunity for us to think outside of the box. Because of COVID I am becoming more technology-savvy and learning to develop my website and maximizing the capacity of my website. I am networking with other farmers more and growing in my faith.
Read the full interview on www.afro.com.