A Cabarrus County agency is collecting the stories of African-American farmers and workers who toiled to feed the early economy of the region.
Resource Conservation Specialist Dennis Testerman and Resource Conservation Coordinator Hannah Hursey, of Cabarrus Soil and Water Conservation District, are collecting stories of African-American farmers in a way that will highlight their contributions. The history project has become part of a conservation education program.
“One of the things we took on over a decade ago was a systematic inventory of the significant natural areas of the county,” said Testerman, who said one of the first sites they identified was a 200-acre wetlands area just above Concord Mills.
As they dug into the history of land trusts associated with that region, they learned that a 33-acre portion of the wetlands area was purchased by the county from the estate of an African-American family.
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The Cabarrus Soil and Water Conservation District is preserving the land and using it as part of a conservation education program for schoolchildren. The students will visit to learn about ecology, but Testerman wants to include the history of the area and how it was used when it was a family farm.
“One of the children of that family, Alice McKenzie, actually grew up on that farm and still lives nearby,” he said, “and we have developed a relationship with her over the years.
“We want the students that visit the area to learn about the human history as well as the ecological significance of the property. In one section you can see pictures, and Alice McKenzie tells us about farming when she was a little girl. The house that they lived in on the adjacent farm is still standing.”
The search for stories and African-American farming families continues, and Testerman hopes more people will call him to share their memories of farming in the region.
“I ran into a fellow recently who went to Logan High School that had an agricultural education program,” Testerman said. “Some of what I have came from the library and some of the old Logan yearbooks there.
“That would be part of what I’d like to identify any Logan graduates who were in the agricultural program back in the day.”
Carole Howell is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Carole? Email her at email@example.com.
To contact Dennis Testerman or Hannah Hursey with your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or call 704-920-3303.