SMITHFIELD, VA. – Smithfield Foods Inc. announced its first family hog farmers to participate in its new contract growing program that is geared toward supporting Black and other minority farmers as it diversifies its hog supply chain.
The company said it is now working with the Martin family who are contract hog farmers in Wayne County, NC. Smithfield released a short documentary featuring the family.
"Our position as a leading food company and hog producer in America is accompanied by tremendous responsibility to our many stakeholders, including our people and communities," said Shane Smith, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods. "We recognize our responsibility to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in our industry through purposeful actions to pave the way toward a stronger, more inclusive agricultural future for our communities."
The Martins, who own J&J Martin Farm Produce, are descendants of Harry Martin, a North Carolina man who escaped enslavement and enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War as a member of the 135th United States Colored Troops (USCT). Harry returned to Wayne Country and purchased land for farming in 1883. Larry Martin, his descendant, has led the farming operations at this current location since 1986.
The family lost their ability to hog farm in 2011 following a weather event that destroyed their barn. With the expansion of Smithfield’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) program and help from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Martins were able to return to hog farming and re-enter the industry.
"As the events of 2020 initiated important conversations about race, justice and inclusion in America, we began to reflect on the fact that many of our farms were minority-managed, but not minority-owned," said Steve Evans, director of community development for Smithfield Foods. "This sparked a larger conversation for Smithfield about what we could do as a leader in our industry to increase access to agriculture for Black and other minority farmers and help break through systemic barriers that are impeding their inclusion."
A US Department of Agriculture (USDA) report said that minority farmers represent 5% of farmers in America and less than 2% identify as Black.