Staying the course

Published By: ChaNaè Bradley April 11, 2023

Small farmer Warren James pursued his farming desires with help from federal programs.

​​Warren James, from Macon County, Georgia, compares his years as a farmer to a roller coaster ride. ​​​ 

“There are many ups and downs, sharp turns and major surprises, but I’m able to maintain,” he says confidently. 

The 59-year-old ​learned how to farm ​from his father at an early age. ​​ 

“My dad was a farmer​,​ and my goal was to be a farmer as well. It was the family business,” James said. 

Continuing the family business, in 1991 James purchased 150 acres of land in his hometown of Montezuma from his father. Over the years he’s grown traditional row crops​,​ such as corn, cotton, peanuts and soybeans. Supporting his local community and beyond, he currently sells crops to a local cotton gin, ​as well as a nearby ​grain and peanut company.  

“One of the things I enjoy the most is watching a healthy crop grow from the young stage,” James said.  

Like many small, underserved farmers, James experienced challenges. He credits the Farm Service Agency (FSA) for helping him overcome those obstacles when he started​ farming on his own​. 

 “They financed the farm land that I purchased, equipment and irrigation, “James said.  “I’ve benefited from those programs and recommend small farmers like myself or beginning farmers ​to ​see what they qualify for​.​​ ​” ​     ​ 

Given the historical experiences of Black farmers with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal funding agencies, James suggests farmers be open-minded.  

“Don’t let the negative hearsay and experiences from the past deter you from moving forward on your goals and dreams in agriculture. Every situation is different,” James said.  

In addition to receiving assistance from FSA, James also credits advice from older farmers ​for​​     ​ his ​success​. ​H​e also mentions how Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension personnel ​assisted ​in his farming practice. 

“I get help from Extension all throughout the year. They answer my questions and come out and do farm visits,” he said.  The small farmer mentioned receiving help through retired Macon County Extension ​a​gent Ricky Waters.  

James said many challenges still exist for small farmers​ – including​  growth opportunities, acquiring land and acquiring finances- but many federal programs ​can​ help beginning farmers. For more information about FSA programs for ​new​ farmers visit,​.​