Farming Your Yard, Booker T. Whatley, Inventor of CSA

Hello garden gals and guys! Welcome back to Fat Earth! I haven’t posted since last summer and honestly, it was because of low readership. However, I realized that I love writing about my gardening adventures as well as topics related to Black farmers. So much so, that I realized I need to keep writing about what I love regardless of whether it reaches anyone or not. 

So, I’m back! And I’ve got a great post for you. My hubby sent me an article about the history of the CSA. I knew about the man who founded it but never thought to share it before. But I’m sharing it now.

See that man there to your left? His name is Booker T. Whatley. What did he do?

He invented the CSA. 

What is a CSA? It stands for Community Supported Agriculture. If you belong to one, then you know what that means. If you don’t, well, it’s  basically a subscription to buy local, seasonal food from a nearby farm. There are various types of CSAs: meat, veggies, eggs. Some farms offer CSAs that include all three of these items. 


There is some misinformation floating around that CSAs began in Europe.


In the 1960s and 70s, during the height of the Civil Rights movement, Black farmers were being denied loans and grants by the federal government while their white counterparts were being given millions of dollars hand over fist. Many Black farmers lost their land waiting on/fighting for assistance they were more than qualified for. 


Photo by Etty Fidele,

Whatley wasn’t going to stand by and let this happen, and necessity is the mother of invention. So Whatley came up with an idea that allowed Black farmers to be supported financially by their own communities, rather than asking for help from a system built on a foundation of white supremacy. The idea was simple: have people pay upfront for a season of food. It guaranteed business for the farmer, and put food on the table for Black people. Thus, the CSA was born. 


The idea was a success. So much so, that the man even wrote a book about it.  It was published in 1987 and is called Booker T. Whatley’s Handbook on How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres: With Special Plans for Prospering on 10 to 200 Acres (I’ve had this book on my wishlist for a few years, but copies of it start at over a hundred dollars on Amazon.)

Booker T. Whatley, How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres


So the CSA, which sustains many small farmers today, was birthed out of the necessity for Black farmers to survive. There are 3.4 million farmers in the U.S. Only 45,000 of those are Black and white farmers account for NINETY-EIGHT percent of the acres being farmed (The CSAs Roots in Black History, Modern Farmer). 

It is no secret that Africans were kidnapped, trafficked to these shores, and enslaved here. Did you know that Africans who had expertise in farming were specifically targeted? Yup. Our ancestors weren’t allowed to bring anything with them except the skills white men wanted to exploit. 

This is why I believe every Black person should grow their own food on whatever scale works for them. We may be able to survive without many things. Food is NOT one of them. We must keep our connection to the soil, now more than ever. 


If you’d like to read more about the complex and beautiful connection Black people have with the land, I just bought a wonderful new book called We Are Each Other’s Harvest, by Natalie Baszile.  It is an ode to Black farmers here in the U.S.

If you’d like to read another article about Booker T. Whatley, you can do that here.


So that’s it for now, garden gals and guys! Until next time…

Happy farming!



We Are Each Other's Harvest, Natalie Baszile