PORT WENTWORTH, Ga. (WSAV) — A historic Black-owned farm has received a $10,000 community grant from the Reparations Project.
Brothers Willie “Uncle Bill” and Robert “Uncle Bob” Johnson co-own the Promised Land Farm.
The farmers were awarded the funds at a check presentation ceremony on April 10.
The Johnson brothers have owned more than 30 acres of land off of Monteith Road since the 1990s.
The historic land was one of the original disbursements of “40 Acres and a Mule” properties by Gen. William Sherman in December of 1864.
The land was granted to freed slaves who assisted the Union soldiers enroute to “Sherman’s March to the Sea.”
“We grow collard greens, turnips, rutabagas, cabbage, kale, you name it,” Robert Johnson told WSAV NOW.
“During the summer, we plant watermelons, corn, okra, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, butterbeans, the whole nine yards,” he added.
He and his brother say receiving the grant was a blessing.
Willie, who has suffered from health issues, says the funds will allow them to hire and pay workers to assist them on the land.
“We can go out and get some help out here, and we’ll be able to pay them a little something in their pocket to do this,” Willie said.
“It’s hard to get people to work on a farm, and if they’re coming out here to work, they’re looking for pay, and we couldn’t afford to do that,” he added.
Patt Gunn, who co-founded the Center for Jubilee, Reconciliation and Healing, helped make the grant possible by connecting with the Reparations Project.
The initiative works to narrow the wealth gap and promote equity for descendants of the enslaved and supporting descendant families of enslavers.
Gunn says she’s been connected to the Promised Land Farm for around 15 years.
“When I saw an opportunity to get them some assistance, this was great in terms of the Reparations Project seeing our vision,” Gunn told WSAV NOW.
“We brought them out here, they met the farmers, and farmers gave them a listing of their needs,” she shared.
Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester A. Ellis says the county is making a commitment to help preserve the historic Promised Land Farm’s legacy.
“What the county can do is partner with them and give them young people who are interested in agriculture to carry it on,” Ellis said.
“There may be grants that are available to them to the county that can help perpetuate this farm and make it what it should be so that we don’t lose it,” he said.
In addition to hiring workers, the Johnsons plan to use the money for land site improvements, running a vendors’ market and implementing a cooling system for their crops.