Barbecuing (barbequing) is a very serious topic for those of us with southern roots. We care about what is on our plates, who cooked it and how, and how it tastes. If it is good, then we are good. However, before it ends up on our plates there is a process from the growing and breeding of the livestock to the vegetables to the grilling and eating that involves some incredible Black women. They are a part of a supply chain in the business of BBQ, and we want to showcase some of them to give you pause to think as well as give you reasons to support them and their fantastic work.
The history of Black women as livestock ranchers and farmers is rich. Some were raising livestock (cattle, hogs, poultry and exotic animals) as a means of generating income and feeding their own families. Their ventures were and are often family-owned ventures or a part of co-ops. During the Civil Rights era, activist and farmer Fannie Lou Hamer founded the Freedom Farm Cooperative in Sunflower County, Mississippi a farm and a pig-raising program to create and foster self-sufficiency for sharecropping African American farmers. Farming, to Hamer, was freedom.
Ranching and farming livestock is freedom and lucrative business for the Black women who own and manage operations that serve as animal protein providers in their communities as well as sub-contractors to larger meat vendors. Most, like these women, will tell you that it is not sexy work. It is, in fact, hard work and often painstakingly so. The thing that keeps them going is pride and perseverance and heritage.
Leiandra Dollison-McClemore is a fifth-generation livestock farmer in Poulan, Georgia. Dollison Farms is over 70 years old and specializes in whole hog farming. Leiandra co-manages Dollison with her father Ricky Dollison Sr., while her mother Leila serves as event coordinator and her husband Ondra McClemore is sales director for the family’s Warrior Creek Premium Meats Co.
As the manager and operator of Caney Creek Ranch in Oakwood, Texas, Kimberly Ratcliff is charged with overseeing the breeding of cattle sold to ranchers in Texas and even internationally. In addition to her duties at Caney, she is the owner of Farm to Freezer Meat Company, which sells ranch-to-consumer (and wholesale to businesses) beef in custom orders. Kimberly is a second-generation cattle rancher as well as community activist who co-founded 100 Ranchers, an organization for primarily Black-owned ranchers in Texas, and she is an advocate for generational land ownership.
Paige Jackson caught husband Derrick’s vision for a regenerative farm and Grass Grazed Farm was born just as she was ready to deliver their fifth child. The 60-acre farmstead is located in Durham, North Carolina. They raise grass-fed, hormone-free cattle, pigs and chickens that are sold at market. Paige has become a voice for small farmers and livestock ranchers all the while working the farm and managing a household. Grass Grazed is a veteran-owned business too.
The R.O.S.E. (Rose of Sharon Estate) Farm is owned and operated by U.S. Army veteran Sharon Carson and her two sons, Bruce and Geoffrey, who are also veterans. Carson owns 87 acres of farmland in Gloucester, Virginia. She has created a wellness-sanctuary to teach children and adults the necessity of nature in our lives, and she is a minister of the Gospel and rancher with pasture-raised goats, lamb, beef cows, pork and poultry that can be purchased as butchered food products online and from the farm.
Fourth-generation cattle rancher, Deydra Steans operates the S3 Legacy Ranch in Luling, Texas with her father, Elvin. S3 Legacy provides quality meat production, replacement cattle and superb ranching services. Deydra also runs Black Gold Resourcing, an agency which aims to educate and offer farming and ranching resources to people of color, women, veterans and individuals who are looking to get into agriculture.
Leiandra, Sharon, Paige, Kimberly and Deydra are all educated women with a profound love for agriculture, the land and agri-business. If the meat they produce ends up on your grill and plate and in your stomach, the guess is that you will taste passion and some really good food.