The deep South state of Georgia. Land of plantations, flowering cherries, southern belles, a long history of slavery followed by more years of racial inequality, and......
Habitat for Humanity?
One of the "birthplaces" of the movements for racial equality?
What's up with this area around Americus? How did it give birth to champions of racial equality, of service to mankind?
Sometimes, things just aren't what they seem to be. Thanks to owners of a bed and breakfast in Americus, we saw a part of Georgia that many never get to see.
Off of Highway 49 near Americus is a most fascinating rural community by the name of Koinonia. In the 1940's, two families founded a Christian community. Their neighbors were mainly black sharecroppers and tenant farmers. At first, they were welcome. But later, because of their preaching of racial equality and a seeking of partnership of black and white in active living of their Christian beliefs, they were rejected by their white neighbors.
So rejected that they had to resort to mail order in order to sell their produce. Even today, you can mail order pecans, chocolate and other goodies from them.
I am told that some of their peanuts go into major brands of peanut butter. So, you may have eaten their peanuts growing up, and even now.
During the 1950's, Koinonia withstood attacks from white supremest organizations, something that deserves the label of "terrorism". Many families left. The story, told from the Koinonia viewpoint, is on their website.
Habitat for Humanity grew from this movement, but I am told that the story is a bit more complex than the way it is described on Koinonia's website. I will not pass judgment on that.
So what did we see when we visited Koinonia back in March? We dropped in totally uninvited and after some waiting around were welcomed by a young man. (If you visit, please keep in mind that this is a working Christian community, not a tourist attraction!) He gave us a brief tour of the grounds, showing us the pecan groves. We spent a lot of time in the harvesting shed. We were shown the machinery, including some with modifications created by the group and chatted for a bit. The young man patiently answered our questions.
Much of the harvesting of the pecans is done by volunteers. We were invited to come back for harvest time.
I would not call it a "commune"-that word has certain undertones that do not apply here. This is a very deeply religious community. Their co-founder, Clarence Jordan, wrote what today is called the "Cotton Patch gospel". (The Cotton Patch Gospel is a retelling of the Gospel according to Matthew, as if it had taken place in Southern Georgia. It remains controversal in some communities.) The bed and breakfast we stayed in had a VHS tape which would have given us more information, but we did not have time to view it.
They follow organic practices where possible. Not all products they sell are theirs but, for example, their chocolate is Fair Trade, pursuant to their beliefs in social justice.
We were invited to stay for lunch with the other farm residents, which we declined. If I had been more religious I may have accepted. But we did buy papershell pecans, which are a treat we can not buy up here in upstate NY.
Incidentally, they have a very nice holiday catalog, if you enjoy nuts, social justice, and a slice of Georgia many people are totally unaware of, please consider buying some of their holiday gifts. They are priced right, and you are supporting a fascinating piece of Southern history.