UK's 'only Black farmer' calls for food industry to support Black Lives Matter09/28/2020
One of the UK’s only Black farmers is calling for the agricultural industry to do more to support the Black Lives Matter movement beyond ‘internal HR fluff’.
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, who is 63, was awarded an MBE for services to farming in the Queen’s Honours List this year.
He was a child of the Windrush generation arriving in Britain from Jamaica at the age of four and has dedicated his working life to the UK agricultural industry, founding The Black Farmer brand.
Wilfred says this Black History Month is an opportunity for the food industry in the UK to show that are serious about diversity, inclusion and showcasing the achievements of Black people in farming and beyond.
‘This is my Bob Geldof moment, galvanising the giants of the food industry to get behind this very important occasion to showcase the great achievements of Black British throughout British history,’ says Wilfred.
‘The George Floyd travesty has brought the importance of Black History Month well and truly front and centre across the world, and particularly Britain.
‘It’s great the Chancellor is now flirting with putting famous Black faces on British currency via the Royal Mint, but what is the rest of corporate Britain doing to show they take the #BlackLivesMatter debate seriously?
‘Not a hell of a lot apart, from some internal HR fluff.
‘I have approached many companies to take part in Black History Month and more often than not I have been referred to their HR department who come out with the usual well-prepared statement saying nothing.’
Wilfred is now on a mission to make his voice heard, and he has worked hard to get supermarket giants to support his latest venture and amplify Black voices in the industry.
‘Every company should use Black History to celebrate black success, creativity and innovation,’ he says. ‘I’m proud that Britain’s supermarkets have all backed The Black Farmer’s initiative.
The Black Farmer aims to redefine Black Friday on the 27 November with a major fundraising drive and celebration of ‘diversity in business’. British supermarkets are also donating profits and promotional space to The Black Farmer’s Black History Month campaign. On top of that, companies are also donating space for a major poster campaign nationwide.
Wilfred’s company has also launched sausages with a flavour of the Caribbean – a jerk pork sausage and jerk chicken sausage, with a pack design that celebrates Black contribution to British society.
Wilfred fell in love with farming tending to his father’s allotment in Birmingham when he was just 11.
‘I made a promise to myself that I’d own a farm one day,’ he tells us. ‘To me, that small green patch was an oasis and an opportunity to escape from the cramped two-up, two-down terraced house I shared with my family of 11.
‘It took 30 years of hard graft – from leaving school aged 16, to the Army, to a career with the BBC and starting my own marketing agency – but in 1999 I moved to Devon to become a farmer.
‘As a child of the Windrush generation, it means something to own land. It’s a stake in the ground and a statement of belonging.’
Wilfred believes passionately that rural spaces should be open and accessible for people of colour in the UK. He says that he has experienced more tolerance and less racism since moving to the countryside.
‘As a kid, I was always looking over my shoulder. Here in Devon, we’re a community and we look out for one another,’ he explains.
‘It’s nice that people say good morning, and I absolutely love Morris dancing. Black people are often stereotyped, but why shouldn’t I enjoy Morris dancing?
‘When we talk about diversity, it tends to be focused on urban spaces, but what about Black people in rural settings? It’s 2020 and I’m one of the only commercial Black farmers in Britain.
‘I want to see more people of colour join the agricultural community.’
He says the way to do that is to change the archaic perceptions of farming. He says this industry has the capacity to be more ‘rock’n’roll’.
‘Before celebrity chef culture, catering was not a desirable profession,’ he explains. ‘But thanks to Gordon and Jamie, it became glamorous. We need to do the same thing with farming. We need personalities to challenge the misconception that it’s a boring industry, because it’s not.’
Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrison’s, Co-op, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose, Budgen’s and Ocado are all devoting in-store promotional space and profits to the month-long Black History Month awareness campaign which will provide donations for the historic Black Cultural Archives, 1 Windrush Square, Brixton and The Mary Seacole Trust.
The Black Farmer has also set up a GoFundMe campaign for extra donations to the causes.
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