April 20, 2009  
Contact: Jerry Pennick - 404 765 0991

Frank Taylor, Shirley Sherrod, Helen Field, Jerry Pennick
at ceremony in Washington DC

Helen Fields Graduates from the
Small Farmer Agriculture
Leadership Institute *

By Jerry Pennick

Helen Fields of John’s Island, South Carolina graduated from the Small Farmer Agriculture Leadership Institute on March 27, 2009. She is the second member of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund to earn this honor.  Frank Taylor, a member of the Winston County Self Help Cooperative, is a 2007 graduate.

The Institute began in 2005 and is an 1890 Land Grant initiative. It provides Socially Disadvantaged Farmers with the training, information and experience necessary to help them become not only better producers but also effective leaders in their communities.

The 2009 graduation ceremonies were held at the United States Department of Agriculture where Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack spoke. He gave a ringing endorsement of the Institute and spoke of the need to have a diverse agriculture system with small farmers playing a major role.

Helen Fields and her husband Joseph are third generation farmers who farm seventy acres of assorted fruits and vegetables. Fifty-eight of those acres are certified organic.

Like their production, the Field‘s marketing is diversified. They sell high quality produce to several farmers markets, restaurants and commercial markets such as Whole Foods. They are innovative in their approach and are always searching for ways to improve their operation.

Helen has traveled internationally to learn from and share with small farmers. The Field’s farm is becoming well known throughout the southeast and serves as a teaching tool for new and emerging farmers especially women.

Helen is chairperson of the Sea Island Farmers Cooperative and a member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives /Land Assistance Fund.

* re-posted from the 2009 Spring Issue of the GREENSBORO ECHO - The Voice of Rural America -
The Official Newsletter of Winston County Self Help Cooperative, Louisville, MS -

Note: The Federation/LAF, now in its 41st year,  assists Black family farmers across the South with farm management, debt restructuring, alternative crop suggestions, marketing expertise and a whole range of services to ensure family farm survivability.