Virginia farmer John Boyd Jr., a longtime advocate for black farmers in America, is one of the subjects in a eight-part documentary series now running on History, the cable channel commonly known as the History Channel.
The series “The American Farm,” made by the production company BoBCat, documents the Boyd family, along with four other farm families across America, in what History describes as “an honest tale of risk, reward, hard work and innovation.”
The hourlong show airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. The first episodes ran April 4.
The series follows Boyd; his wife, Kara; and adult sons Wesley and Braven, as they work to grow wheat, soybeans and cattle on their 300-acre farm in Mecklenburg County. A film crew spent much of last year on the farm, filming what Boyd described as a “difficult season” because the weather was hard on soybean and wheat crops.
“The message I would like to get across is that most people take farmers for granted,” Boyd said. “They take food for granted. When they see the trials and tribulations you go through to produce a crop, maybe they will have a greater appreciation for agriculture.”
In part, the series focuses on issues surrounding the “next generation” of farmers and who will carry on his family business, said Boyd, 53, a fourth-generation farmer.
“I think that is an issue for a lot of farmers, whether they are black, white, blue, green or brown,” Boyd said. “The average age of farmers is 61. We just don’t see enough young people saying they want to farm full time, taking over a family business and trying to make a go of it.”
Boyd said he also shared with the filmmakers his advocacy work as president of the National Black Farmers Association, including work that eventually led to a $1 billion legal settlement for black farmers who suffered discrimination in federal farm-loan programs.
More recently, the National Black Farmers Association has filed an objection with federal regulatory agencies against the proposed merger of regional banks BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks Inc.
Boyd argues that the consolidation of regional banks makes it harder for black farmers in rural communities to get financing and banking services.
“When banks come together, they close geographical locations,” Boyd said. “They are moving more towards internet banking that is difficult for our membership. Forty-one percent of black farmers do not have access to the internet at home.”