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Corporation For Economic Opportunity

"Prosperity for All"

The Greening of Black America

“A Rural Development Initiative”

Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CEO) has been awarded a unique grant to develop and promote projects, which demonstrate how black farmers, land owners, rural communities and community-based organizations might participate in and benefit from the nation’s new efforts to promote renewable energy, energy conservation and other sustainable initiatives. Under its “Greening of Black America” Initiative, CEO believes that our country’s new focus creates a wonderful economic opportunity for South Carolina’s African-American community. Some of CEO’s “Green” projects include: 

  • The development of a new community Farmers Market, with 10,000 potential customers, at Broookland Baptist Church
  • Help black farmers reduce their operating costs, by participating in a low-cost bio-diesel system
  • Help black farmers learn to grow and sell new bio-crops for a better profit
  • Help to bring “Green Jobs” to communities of color

Click here for a PowerPoint presentation on the Greening of Black America Initiative.


CEO recognizes that sustainable agriculture, especially organic farming, represents an opportunity to help provide economic empowerment to limited-resource and minority farmers, help them retain their land and keep their families out of poverty. In early 2006, CEO began an Organic Farmer Assistance Initiative (OFAI), in partnership with its for-profit affiliate, Agri-Tech Producers, LLC, which provides financial, managerial and marketing assistance to limited-resource and minority farmers. Through this program, CEO has advised would be organic farmers, provided working capital financing to existing organic farmers and developed new buying relationships with organic food stores, like Earth Fare, The Fresh Market and Whole Foods Markets. In one case, a minority farmer’s revenues from these stores were more than twice as large as they were in the previous year. In addition, there are also ways to increase the sustainability of traditional limited-resource and minority farmers.

CEO hopes to bring the first farmers markets into poor, inner-city neighborhoods as a way of increasing market opportunities for limited-resource and minority farmers, while bringing much-needed food to poor and underserved inner-city residents. Many of these neighborhoods have no supermarket within a 5-10mile radius. CEO has been successful in opening the, Community Farmers Market at Brookland Baptist Church, in a socially and racially diverse area in West Columbia, SC. The market runs from 9am - 2pm every Saturday from June through November and features several minority farmers who are able to sell their produce directly to the consumer. CEO's market staff specifically targets low income families via door to door promotion of the market and mass distribution of flyers for the market including recognition that the market accepts SNAPS (Food Stamps), Senior Food Vouchers, and accepts EBT cards. CEO is also facilitating further empowerment of these farmers by aiding them in establishing relationships with businesses and starting up co-ops among other initiatives. 

CEO President, Joe James, at the Grand Opening Ceremonies of The Community Farmers Market at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia, South Carolina, June 27, 2009


Corporation for Economic Opportunity (CEO) believes that the utilization of biomass has great potential for creating jobs and promoting economic development in distressed areas.

CEO has received a $250,000 grant from the USDA Forest Service to implement a project to increase the use of woody biomass from National Forest lands in South Carolina. This project consists of the collection and utilization of woody biomass from the Francis Marion National Forest and from the Sumter National Forest. For a two-year period, approximately $200,000 in incentives will be used to encourage the harvesting and utilization of woody biomass, by companies and institutions, from these two parts of the National Forest, to serve two large customers. This project will complement the National Forest's hazardous fuels treatment efforts and will expand existing and create new markets for National Forest biomass.

CEO has organized a group of partners, consisting of Santee Cooper, the University of South Carolina (USC), Johnson Controls, Inc., the South Carolina Forestry Association, the South Carolina Forestry Commission, local forestry companies and the South Carolina Energy Office (SCEO), in order to properly implement this project.

The South Carolina Energy Office, with support from CEO, operates a Department of Energy (DOE) funded South Carolina Biomass Market Development Program (SCBMDP), which, among other things, includes a variety of initiatives to encourage the expanded use of biomass in the State of South Carolina. The Woody Biomass Utilization Grant will help create a highly visible project, which will not only allow for the demonstration that biomass is a usable fuel, but it will help SCEO accomplish its SCBMDP goal of increasing the awareness of biomass as an alternative to coal and petroleum-based fuels.

As a result of Hurricane Hugo in 1989, approximately 30,000 acres of Francis Marion (FM) National Forest land is currently in a condition needing treatment within the next few years (less than 10 years). In order to accomplish the task of treating that acreage, the regular district timber sale program is expected to treat 20,000 of the 30,000 acres by offering standard commercial "first-thinning" timber sales (typically stand ages are 16-25 years old). Simultaneously, the FM Biomass Stewardship Project will thin the remaining 10,000 acres by targeting treatment of stands populated with loblolly pine trees 2-9 inches in diameter at breast height, 25-60 feet in height, and densities ranging between 600 to over 2,00 trees per acre.

To date, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation has been accomplished on the first 990 acres of the FM Biomass Removal Project. The contract specifications and bid packages have been awarded for the FM Macedonia Biomass Removal Contract. The approximate acreage to be treated is 1,200 and the approximate volume of biomass is 50,000 tons of chips.

The two Sumter National Forest piedmont units are called the Enoree Ranger District and the Long Cane Ranger District. Both districts have many thousands of acres in need of silvicultural treatments. Currently most of the stands in need of treatment are overstocked and in need of thinning and prescribed burning in order to reduce the hazard of southern pine beetle infestations and catastrophic fire events.

A large backlog of first thinnings has developed on both of the piedmont districts. For the Long Cane Ranger District, very poor market conditions have existed in the western part of South Carolina and into eastern Georgia for the last 10 years or more. During those years, sales containing large to moderate amounts of pulpwood have either had utilization problems or have received no bids. High haul costs to other markets made the product uneconomical to harvest. A new market source (especially for small pulpwood) would be a huge boost to the owners of timberlands in and around that part of the state.

To date, NEPA documentation will be completed on several thousand acres over the next year, which means in the near future both districts will be significantly increasing the number of acres treated annually. First thinnings and treatment of young stands will have a high priority for the next several years, so development of new markets for Sumter National Forest biomass would be a timely occurrence.