Williams Produce, Batchelor, LA
Williams Produce is installing a cooling shed to safely store produce between harvesting and market days. This new equipment will decrease the amount of waste that occurs, especially during the hot summer months, and allow Lester to expand the communities he serves.
Bio: Lester Williams graduated in 1976, formed Williams Produce, LLC, and began row-cropping soybeans in Batchelor, Louisiana. By 1998 Lester was farming with his nephew and building the operation as a family business. Unfortunately, as with many other Black farmers across the country, Lester found that the local FSA was not processing and dispersing his loans on the same timeline as many white farmers in the area. The federal loans made to William’s operation never came until other farmers in the area had their crop in the ground, no matter where Lester was in line. Lester’s disbursements were coming as Louisiana entered the dry season, ensuring that he couldn’t set a good crop.
With clear evidence of discrimination, it wasn’t long before Lester was a plaintiff in the Pigford Vs. Glickman II settlement. The case’s success didn’t make his operation whole. His farm operation slowly turned away from production and became a family vegetable garden as Lester focused on working for the Department of Transportation and raising a family.
In 2003, after decades of vegetable gardening Lester started exploring selling vegetables instead of the row crops he had once grown. Lester grew greens, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and squash. He started slowly by selling his vegetables to the older adults in his town, then expanded to wholesale markets in New Roads and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Soon, Lester met members of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and joined the federation, officially starting Point Coupee Minority Grower’s Cooperative. These new connections led him to explore retail markets in New Orleans, first bringing to a local grocery store, then a restaurant forager, and eventually to the Crescent City Farmers Market, where he remains a vendor to this day.