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Black History Month: Agricultural Innovators

This February, in honor of Black History Month, we are recognizing just a few of the individuals who have helped shape the agriculture industry. At Riceland, we are proud to have a diverse workforce that strives to help our farmer members feed the world, sustainably.

Here are four Black agriculturists to keep in mind next time you sit down for a meal!

George Washington Carver
Photo Credit:

George Washington Carver: One of the most notable agricultural scientists and inventors of the modern era. Carver focused on developing crop rotations to prevent nutrient depletion in the soil. By alternating cotton with other commodities like peanuts and corn, nitrogen is reintroduced to the soil and yields are increased.1

In 1894, Carver became the first African American to earn aBachelor of Science degree. He joined Booker T. Washington at TuskegeeInstitute after completing graduate studies. Over his time, he developed more than 300 food, industrial, and commercial products from peanuts. Learn more about George Washington Carver here.


Photo Credit: The Black Wall Street Times

Henry Blair: Blair was issued a United States patent for his “Seed-Planter.” Designed to simplify the planting process, this invention boosted labor efficiency.1 Two years later, he received an additional patent for a “Cotton-Planter.” The planter worked by splitting the ground with two blades pulled by a horse, followed by a wheel-driven cylinder which dropped seed into the newly plowed furrow. 3

Born in Glen Ross, Maryland, Blair was a successful farmer and his contributions helped shape modern-day agriculture equipment.3


Photo Credit: Bob Vila

Booker T. Whatley: A horticulturalist and professor atTuskegee University, Whatley is the author of “How to Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres” in 1987. The book offered sustainable ways for farmers to minimize cost and waste while maximizing income.

Whatley also introduced the idea of consumers picking their own produce directly from local farms. This practice, which saves time and labor for farmers, remains popular today.1

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Frederick McKinley Jones: A member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Frederick McKinley Jones took out over 60 patents. In 1940, Jones patented a cooling system for truck transportation. During World War II, this was used to preserve medicine, blood, and food.1

Jones’ invention of portable air-cooling unit helped shape the future of the food industry. Until this point, refrigeration ended at railcars. Trucks used ice to transport food to their final destination. Jones’ contribution helped reduce food spoilage.4


To learn more about these individuals and their contributions, please visit the following links:

Black Innovators in Agricultural Industry:

George Washington Carver:

Henry Blair:

The History of Refrigerated Transportation: