Don’t Sign Anything!
Posted On April 11, 2018
“God’s not making any more land!”
When members of the Center staff visited the Manigault family home to talk about the forestry program, Louis, Sr. stayed out of sight, in the back of the house, and periodically called out – “Don’t sign anything!”
Too many African American families have stories of land lost after signing documents they may not have fully understood. Louis’s caution about his land is why he still has every inch of it.
Louis, Sr. took his time learning about the Center’s Sustainable Forestry (SF) program and is now a convert and champion of the Center’s work. With development in high gear, Louis, Sr. worries about the small landowners in his community. “We need to help those who don’t know what to do, so they don’t do fly-by-night things.”
Louis, Sr. bought his family home and 39 acres from his cousin and then 53 acres from his father in Berkeley County and his nine children all worked the land growing up. They kept cows, hogs and chickens; grew deer corn, soybeans, cane and sweet potatoes, and tended a family garden.
The children remember pulling peanuts from 4AM to long after dark on Saturdays. Hard though it was, they all agree – “It gave us our work ethic…and teamwork ethic.”
In this family of eleven, Mom and Dad were both teachers as are two of their children, another works for Santee Cooper and one for Kapstone; three are registered nurses and two are in the Air Force. Son Louis, II is now the primary caretaker of the property. “The land is ‘home’ for all of us. It’s our common bond. We always know we can come back.”
Before SF, the family didn’t have a forest management plan. They focused on farming and leased some land for hunting to help pay the taxes. The trees supplied them with fuel for the wood stove, but there was no re-planting.
Today, with the help of a consultant forester, they have a long term forest management plan with 10-15 and 30-year goals and have benefited from financial assistance through the USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) “EQIP” (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) to re-plant loblolly pine. They also lease their land for farming and hunting and harvest deer corn.
“The program wouldn’t be worth 2-cents without the education,” Louis, II asserts. “At the SFP seminars, once a quarter, we’ve learned what we should know. What our rights are. It’s given my family hope that we can develop an economic plan for the future to hold on to our land. Personally, I want our forest to look like the national forest,” he smiled. “It’s just a matter of execution.”
They also want to get things in order for the next generation. Have a plan they can follow. “Land in these times is gold,” they all agree. “God’s not making more land.”