Ben Burkett is a long-time advocate for Black farmers in the South and has spent the last 40 years as a farmer and cooperative organizer in Petal, Mississippi. To fight the ingrained discrimination that denied Black farmers open markets for their crops, access to federal and state programs, and even retention of their land, Ben organized neighboring farm families to sell their crop in Chicago, and later helped to develop the Indian Spring Farmers Association.
In 1978, Ben joined the staff of the Emergency Land Fund (ELF) where he identified and worked with other Black farmers and landowners to protect their landholdings. When EFL merged with the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Ben’s role expanded to include spreading the word about the cooperative business model and teaching diversified crop development for conservation and marketing purposes.
Ben was later appointed to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency Committee for Mississippi where he helped raise the profile of agricultural and handicraft co-ops throughout the South, and work he continues to do as a State Coordinator for the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives. As a tireless promoter and advocate for the cooperative business model, Ben’s knack for connecting farmers globally and bringing them together for a common cause has made him a sought-after speaker, trainer, organizer and a true example of the cooperative spirit. Ben’s work was recognized with a leadership award from the James Beard Foundation in 2014.
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives
F4DC is proud to know and work with the inimitable Ben Burkett, innovative farmer, community-minded leader, and stalwart of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Go Ben!
The NCBA CLUSA members and staff congratulate Ben Burkett on his induction into the 2020 Cooperative Hall of Fame. We applaud you for your dedication to the cooperative movement.
CoBank congratulates Ben Burkett on your induction to the Cooperative Hall of Fame. We honor you for the extraordinary contributions you have made in the agricultural cooperative community.