Just around the corner from Willow Hill Heritage and Renaissance Center, the site of one of the first all-Black schools in Bulloch County, Georgia, lies 19 acres of land owned by a generational farmer, Roy Mosley.
He says he chose to follow in the agricultural footsteps of his late grandfather Robert “R.L.” Williams, who was a hog farmer and mechanic all his life.
“He and my grandma had a large flock of chickens, we actually sold brown eggs to our local grocery store at one time, and just a lot of customers coming straight to the farm,” said Mosley, who runs Roy Mosley Farms in the small town of Portal, which is about 200 miles southeast of Atlanta.
Farming has been in his family’s blood for decades. In 1987, Williams returned home after working in 70-mile distant Savannah following the loss of his original land in Portal.
“He came back, started back farming again and was able to make a living that go-around and keep his family going,” Mosley said of his grandfather, who passed away in 2015.
Mosley, a father to four daughters and a 1-year-old son, says his all-natural farm is known for breeding pigs and growing produce, corn and grain sorghum.
On his 19 acres, Mosley has been growing wheat, rye and barley — smaller grains that grow well in wintertime, he says.
The farmer doesn’t use chemicals on his crops. “A lot of the chemicals and stuff that the big farmers have to use on the crops nowadays, it stays in that grain,” Mosley said. “For us to feel like we’re doing it right all the way through, we don’t use any chemicals.”
Mosley says going chemical-free often means utilizing more fuel and labor to keep the weeds away and the crops clean, but he’d rather spend the extra money in order to farm “the right way.”
Following his grandfather’s death, the farmer continued to care for the land he’d loved since he was a child. “I started trying to take it to the next level and grow the farm,” he said.
Mosley runs another patch of land a short drive away from the farm’s main location. This season, he’s been growing cabbage, collard greens, mustards, rutabagas and turnips.
“The cold is starting to bite ’em bad,” he said of his remaining turnips. “The cabbage and the collards, they can handle it, they’ll make it all the way through to the spring, but we’ve pretty much sold everything we’re gonna sell out of those turnips.”
Visitors are encouraged to stop by Mosley Farms to get their produce fresh from the ground.
“We actually cut their greens fresh and put them in their car, so you don’t get any fresher than that,” Mosley said. “The grocery store can say it’s fresh, but it doesn’t get any fresher than from the farm, you know, direct to the customer.”
The time and effort he and his team put into running the farm costs Mosley around $30,000 annually.
The funds come primarily out of his pocket, though he still clears a profit. He says receiving funding and other assistance for his farm hasn’t been easy.
“I don’t get any farm loans, anything like that,” Mosley said. “I have in the past, but it’s always been really tedious trying to get certain stuff done and get it on time.”
Another constant obstacle, he shares, is always being at the mercy of the weather.
“We got tons of rain last winter, and it washed a lot of our topsoil off,” Mosley said. “I actually had to do a lot of tractor work this [past] spring to pull dirt back up and fix gullies and all of that.”
Despite the challenges, Mosley says, like his grandfather did, he finds the hard work of farm life rewarding.
“Just being out on the land and learning how God intended for livestock and animals and the land to work together, you know, with him putting us as farmers, being the shepherds of the land, just figuring out that combination,” he shares.
The farmer is currently working toward applying for organic certification for his farmland. He says he wants to encourage young Black men not to shy away from farming, while also hoping that his baby boy grows up to follow a similar path as a farmer.
“We kind of have a [stigma] toward farming, and when you mention farming to some young guys, you know, they’re like, ‘farming?’ and they kind of push away from it,” Mosley said.
“I just want them to kind of break that [stigma],” he said.