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Celebrating Black History Month with Finis

As Black History Month comes to a close, we want to highlight an individual who has made a significant contribution to our community. Finis Stribling, whose dedication to agriculture and food security inspires us every day, is a member of Second Harvest’s Board of Directors and has been instrumental in helping us fight hunger. Let’s take a closer look at Stribling’s work with Second Harvest and the Tennessee New Farmer Academy Program, and how these efforts contribute to a more sustainable and inclusive future in agriculture.

Creating a Community of Knowledge and Support

Finis’s journey with Second Harvest began through a familial connection but quickly evolved into a vital partnership during 2020. We needed expertise in supply chain and agriculture analysis due to the pandemic, and Finis’s insights became instrumental for us. Now, his work primarily focuses on the Tennessee New Farmer Academy Program, an initiative that has successfully educated over 600 new and beginning farmers since its inception in 2014. This program stands as a testament to Stribling’s commitment to fostering growth and education within the agricultural community. The Tennessee New Farmer Academy Program, under Stribling’s guidance, aims to empower individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in the agricultural industry. Stribling’s efforts were recognized with the 2024 Community Excellence Award from Tennessee State University’s Department of Agriculture, highlighting the program’s impact on the community and the agricultural sector.

Addressing Challenges and Celebrating Growth

Stribling’s insights into the challenges facing the agricultural industry are profound. He notes the decline in the number of farmers, which directly correlates to food insecurity. Finis says, “There are fewer and fewer farmers. Less farmers means less food.” Yet, he finds hope. He continues, “We’ve seen many women, and young people take up farming. That’s an exciting area of growth.” However, the issue of land cost remains a significant barrier for many aspiring farmers. To remedy this issue, Finis has had to come up with innovative solutions. Finis teaches his young farmers to maximize their profits in every whey they can. Finis says, “We are trying to think of how we can get as many dollars as possible out of each square foot of land.”

Black History and the Fight Against Food Insecurity

The parallels between Finis Stribling’s work and lessons that can be learned from Black History are striking. In the early 1900s, George Washington Carver knew something had to be done to restore nitrogen into the depleted soils of the American South. So, he led a campaign to plant peanuts, a now well-known nitrogen fixer, across the region to rejuvenate the soil. That left him with a problem: what do you do with all those peanuts? Washington Carver famously devised hundreds of recipes and inventions to use up the crop, and to get money to Black farmers that were desperately in need. Like Washington Carver, Finis has shown how innovation and education can transform the agricultural landscape in the face of adversity. Stribling’s focus on maximizing land use by and addressing the challenges of land loss among Black farmers resonates with Carver’s efforts to restore nitrogen to depleted soils through peanut cultivation. This historical context enriches our understanding of Stribling’s work and underscores the importance of agricultural innovation in combating food insecurity.

Conclusion: A Reminder of Our Fundamental Needs

In concluding our celebration of Black History Month, Finis Stribling reminds us of the fundamental importance of food security. “How would we survive without food? At the end of the day, everyone needs food,” Stribling rightly points out. His work, rooted in both historical and contemporary contexts, highlights the critical role of agriculture for our survival and well-being. By honoring individuals like Finis Stribling, we not only celebrate their contributions but also acknowledge the ongoing need for innovation, education, and inclusivity in agriculture.

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