OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Tammy Gray-Steele has spent decades in the dirt.
“I’m nothing but a country girl from a small rural town farm,” said the fourth-generation farmer.
“Farming is in my soul.”
Gray-Steele said her family still owns the plot of land granted from an order after the Civil War to give property to freed, Black families.
“[The farm] is the original 40 acres that was awarded during the Emancipation Proclamation,” she said.
That foundation led her to incorporate the National Women in Agriculture Association (NWIAA), a Black women-led farm assistance organization, in 2008.
The organization offers education, outreach and sustainable resources to rural and underserved communities, while promoting more equitable practices in farming and shining light on community crime, poverty, economics and food insecurity – and the positive impact the agriculture sector has on at-risk you and other vulnerable groups.
“We know for a fact that for over sixteen years, agriculture is an outlet to end poverty. We know that agriculture is the sustainable way to save our children from incarceration or death,” she added.
Dr. Gray-Steele will gather hundreds of Black female farmers and supporting partners in Washington D.C. on September 21, 2023 for the National Women in Agriculture Association Equity & Inclusion March, pushing for policy reform for the poverty crisis affecting the nation, while pushing for equity and inclusion in the farming sector.
The march will highlight the challenges faced by Black women in the industry and seek support for NWIAA as it strives to become the first Black congressionally chartered non-profit in the US.
Tammy said she hopes to secure a front-facing meeting with President Biden and other White House leadership.
“The first of its kind, [this is] Black women marching to save our children [and] he ultimate goal is to have a meeting with President Biden before October 10,” she added.
While Dr. Gray-Steele said with around 45,000 members, NWIAA is one of the largest non-profit organizations for Black women in agriculture. She put down roots for the organization on the northeast side of OKC, along Martin Luther King Avenue.
“Peppers , tomatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, greens, cabbage, lettuce …also fruit trees, peaches, apples…literally from the garden to the table,” she said.
“Everything we grow here is free. We do not charge a cent.”
Tammy said the effort is to make sure that everyone in the community is included and has access to locally grown foods, which can be out of reach.
“I saw the need and we want to make sure our children stay alive and out of jail,” she said.
“That’s the bottom line. There’s nothing hard about it. And it’s sustainable.”