2023 Gather Award in Community-Centered Journalism, Overall Excellence, Micro/Small Newsroom finalist

Black elders saved this couple’s Mississippi farm. Now they’re harvesting ancestral techniques—and tomatoes

About the Project

Teresa and Kevin Springs have stewarded TKO Farming in McCool, Mississippi, for five years now. Today, they boast a diverse crop—carrots, collards, turnips, beans, garlic, and tomatoes, as well as a host of livestock—leaps and bounds away from the overgrown, neglected land they first inherited.

In the first half of the 20th century, the Springses’ farm was one of the central Mississippi farms stewarded jointly by Black family co-ops, formed out of necessity to share resources and farming skills. Fast forward to 2017, and members of the Winston County Self Help Cooperative were still around to lend the help the couple desperately needed to make the land thrive again.

The Springses are a success story, but they know their situation is unique. Many of the children and descendants of these cooperative members have no interest in carrying on their family farms. As they have for decades, aging Black farmers have carried on this legacy largely in isolation. Kevin and Teresa know that the lifesaving, generational wisdom their elders imparted on them—like when to plant, how to cut hay, and the best way to fell trees—could soon be lost to posterity if someone doesn’t harvest it. Now, they’re doing all they can to preserve that know-how, and the land, for future generations.