B. Ray Jeffers recently joined the RAFI-USA team as Program Coordinator for Expanding Market Access for Farmers of Color. Ray is no stranger to the job as he currently grows seasonal vegetables for wholesale and direct sale at his B.R. Jeffers Farms in Roxboro, NC, as well as raises heritage breed hogs for direct sale at markets and restaurants.
Ray’s century old farm was purchased by his then 19-year-old great grandfather in 1919; he paid $6,000 for 200 acres and the farm grew tobacco for more than 80 years. Ray remembers how much he loved the farm and how he enjoyed following his grandfather around on the tractor. One of his earliest memories is helping to pick up the tobacco leaves that fell off the slide. “It seemed every time we were at the barn hanging tobacco there was always a rat snake hanging around,” he recalled. In high school he was involved with Future Farmers of America and became the first Black president of his school’s FFA chapter. He then went on to be the collegiate treasurer at NC A&T during his junior year.
Ray’s interest in governance and policy led him to become the youngest commissioner for the Person County Board of Commissioners to which he was elected in December of 2008. He went on to serve for 12 years. “I was always involved civically in school and after graduation. I ran because I stayed, speaking to the outmigration many rural communities are seeing when the younger citizens leave and never return to work or live,” he shared. He also was the first commissioner from Person County to be elected President of the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC). “I am also the youngest President in the NCACC history as I was sworn in the night before my 30th birthday,” he added.
Ray received a grant from RAFI-USA in 2018 to expand into raising pastured hogs. “The grant I received from RAFI was instrumental in adding pasture raised pork to our farm. It has been extremely successful for us and introduced a whole new customer base to our farm and products,” he explained.
“With extensive experience in local government and as a farmer himself, Ray comes to RAFI-USA with a deep understanding of how to build alternative local food marketplaces that can benefit both farmers and communities. We are excited to have him on the team,” said Lisa, Misch, RAFI-USA’s Program Manager for the Expanding Farmers Market Access Program.
Ray hopes to share his experience and knowledge in matching farmers and markets in his new position and is enthusiastic about joining RAFI-USA’s team: “I am extremely excited to work with other farmers to help them become more sustainable and hope to see them grow like I did, with RAFI’s help.” His hope for the future of ag in the U.S. is seeing “..more programs to make it affordable for younger people to become farmers; more attention and support for small farms; and more broadband access for agribusinesses in rural areas.
Ray can be reached at [email protected]