Nearly all Minn. farmers white, and change doesn't come easy
October 18, 2021
RUTLEDGE, Minn. - Two Pine County farms, less than 40 miles apart as the crow flies, are on opposite sides of a debate over racial discrimination in U.S. agriculture that's flaring anew but has deep roots in the nation's history.
Outside the small town of Rutledge, Harold Robinson and Angela Dawson joined Minnesota's tiny roster of Black farmland owners a few years ago with a 40-acre land purchase that they built into a small hemp farm and cooperative without government assistance. The acreage was symbolic: "Forty Acres and a Mule" was a post-Civil War military policy that briefly transferred ownership of farmland to people freed from slavery. White owners quickly re-seized most of it.
"It felt exactly like a sign," Robinson, a wiry Army veteran and former Hennepin County deputy, said as he stood among tall, fragrant hemp plants in one of their new greenhouses.