Calvin Speight says his great-great-grandfather is “the one that started America eating real good.”
Speight, a Hinesville resident retired from the military, is piecing together his family history and its connection to the farming industry in America.
His great-great-grandfather, the Rev. Albert T. Speight, founded Farmer’s Enterprises in 1914 in Dublin, Georgia, and influenced the farming practices of the Future Farmers of America.
The Rev. Speight and his wife Nancy, moved to Dublin from North Carolina during the late 1800s.
“I was told that the farm business was going under and my great-great-grandfather and a few other guys got together and they had this plan to show everybody else how their farms were prospering,” Speight said. “They formed this union of like-minded farmers, called Farmer’s Enterprises. They were doing good.”
Future Farmers of America was founded in 1925 by staff members of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute Agricultural Education Department and was originally called the Future Farmers of Virginia. In 1928 it became a nationwide organization.
The North Carolina Association of New Farmers of America, also referred to as the North State Farmers, was founded at North Carolina A&T State University between 1926 and 1927. New Farmers of America was for African-American men and similar to FFA, taught vocational skills, farming practices, agricultural skills and leadership. The national NFA organization was formed at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, in 1935. NFA and FFA later merged in 1965.
Speight said NFA adopted the farming techniques from Farmer’s Enterprises before merging with FFA.
A concrete post carved with the letters NFA once held up a plaque in honor of Rev. Speight on the side of a building in Dublin, Speight said. It was taken down when NFA became FFA. The post was relocated to the Rev. Speight’s farm, which is still in Dublin.
Speight didn’t know about his family history growing up.
When he was 5, Speight’s parents divorced. He stayed with his father while his mother moved to Hinesville with his sister.
He worked alongside his father at his grandfather’s farm in Statesboro.
“I didn’t know why we were at the farm. I was just a little kid playing in the strawberry patch,” Speight said. “I guess it was in our blood.”
He also wondered how his grandfather could afford to buy a farm when it seemed that neighbors in the area could not.
Speight’s father died when he was 11 and his mother brought him to Hinesville.
He attended a family reunion in Dublin in 2010 where relatives told him about the Rev. Speight. He also realized why his brother, father and grandfather were all named A.T. Speight.
Rep. Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, presented a resolution to the Speight family at their reunion in honor of Rev. Speight.
A portion of the resolution reads, “Reverend Speight demonstrated a commitment to teaching the gospel, witnessing Christ through word and deed, and addressing the physical, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual needs of others.”
Speight said he feels it’s important for people to know the contributions African-Americans made to the farming industry because it is a vital part of daily life.