Rows of bright green grape vines provided an appropriate backdrop for the recent USDA Field Day held at Williams Muscadine Farm in Nesmith, S.C.
Bill Trado, County Executive Director (CED) of the Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Williamsburg County office, led the event, which gathered more than 100 guests at 84-year-old David Williams’ vineyard. The event honored Williams for his outstanding accomplishments in agriculture and helped to educate guests about USDA programs.
Among those in attendance were FSA State Executive Director (SED) Laurie Lawson, South Carolina Senator Yancey McGill, and representatives from U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham’s and U.S. Congressman James Clyburn’s offices. Others in attendance were local county council members, judges, heads of government agencies, and small and limited resource farmers.
Williams, a former educator, planted the first grape vine on his parent’s land in Nesmith, which was purchased by his father, Rev. Gabriel Williams, in 1924. Today, Williams and his wife Edith are joined by their seven children, spouses, grandchildren and great grandchildren in making the vineyard and farm a place to experience farm life in the rural south.
Williams is included in the 2012 AT&T African American History Calendar. He was honored, along with 12 additional individuals whose remarkable accomplishments are memorialized within it pages. Senator McGill attended the gala that took place in October in Columbia. “It was standing room only,” said McGill. “When David Williams was recognized, the applause and cheers was second to none. I have never heard such an outburst of pride all over that building. It’s amazing. This man knows everybody.”
Williams also has been the recipient of several other awards that include 2009 South Carolina African American Commission’s Preserving Our Place in History award and 2010 Williamsburg Home Town Chamber Agriculturalist of the Year.
The Farm has been featured in several publications including Minority Landowner magazine and the Greater Pee Dee/Grand Strand Business Journal and reached beyond the borders of South Carolina in an August 2010 Philadelphia Sun article titled, “Smooth Traveler, South Carolina’s Heritage Corridor,” where the farm was recognized in a brief of activities geared toward guests.
“Farming is a blessing to me. I just love it,” Williams said to the assembled guests. “When I come [to this farm], I get a different spirit. I see things and feel things that I never felt before. I call it ‘blessed land.’”
The USDA Field Day included tours of the farm, information booths and a barbecue lunch. The Williams family produces four types of Muscadine grapes. Besides wine, the family also produces grape-infused delicacies such as jams and jellies. The farm provides scheduled demonstrations, activities, and hands-on farming experiences for school groups, church youth organizations, senior groups, and others. Each Labor Day weekend, the family hosts a Muscadine Festival as well as a You-Pick during the harvest season.
USDA officials attending the event also discussed farm programs with guests and answered questions about the ongoing claims process for Hispanic and women farmers who allege that they were discriminated against when seeking USDA farm loans. They were given the Farmer and Rancher Call Center number 1-888-508-4429 and website www.farmerclaims.gov, so that potential claimants could register to receive a claims package. Under the leadership of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, USDA has made it a priority to resolve all of the past civil rights cases facing the Department.