Long history for Black farmers in Ontario

Long history for Black farmers in Ontario
Jun 18, 2020

Shannon and Bryan Prince can trace their family history back to formerly enslaved ancestors who farmed the same land they do

By Jackie Clark
Staff Writer

Shannon Prince, a Black Canadian farmer, and her family have deep roots in southwestern Ontario.

Prince’s husband, Bryan Prince, can trace his family history in the community to 1850. His great-great-great-grandmother Francis – called Fanny – settled in the Elgin Settlement, on what is now the 8th line.

The Elgin Settlement, also known as Buxton, was a vibrant community of formerly enslaved Black people.

Franny was formerly enslaved in South Carolina. It is not known whether she and her children fled using the Underground Railroad or with the consent of the slave owner, who was also the father of her children. She settled in Buxton and grew spring wheat, potatoes, beans, hay and corn. Fanny also raised a few livestock.

Shannon and Bryan Prince have, over time, inherited and purchased land that belonged to their ancestors in Buxton. The couple have four children who live in the area and farm part-time.

“We're blessed every day to share those moments with them and now their children,” Prince said.

The hardworking and collaborative spirit of the Black people who settled Buxton dovetails with the supportive nature of farming communities in the area today.

“It doesn't matter if you're a Black farmer or if you're a white farmer here. We all are facing the same challenges. So, if we can't get all our soybeans planted and we know rain is on the horizon, one of our neighbors will come in, fill up his or her drill, and continue to plant,” Prince said.

Black farmers are an important part of Canada’s history, as well as the current agricultural landscape. However, Black farmers are rarely represented in leadership roles of farm organizations or commodity groups.

“I think there is an interest; it would be nice to see that diversity. But I think (the push) has to come from the farmers themselves. And I don't think there would be any opposition … I would hope not,” said Prince.

Prince is also the curator of Buxton National Historic Site and Museum. You can learn more about the history of Buxton here.

For advice on how to begin talking more about race and inclusion in agriculture, click here. 

Shannon Prince photo

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Comments (2)

Regarding Peter Carter's comment I too consider white people and Black people to be equal however many policies have been in place across Canada to ensure we are unequal. White folks have the advantage to say "I see no race" because much of the time we operate with benefits which can seem invisible to us. Were we subject to acts of racism, large or small, either systemic or individual like access to financial funding, increased scrutiny by police, being one of a handful of people of colour in a white community or questions like "where are you really from" we might begin to see healing from the hate people give.
Mary |Jul 21 2020 5:25PM
When I look at a person standing beside me I do not think that person is better than I am and vice versa -- I consider us both equal -- no matter what color or creed and if others would do the same then we wouldn't have all this hate in the world -- we are all "children of God".
Peter Carter |Jun 23 2020 5:26AM

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