Shannon and Bryan Prince can trace their family history back to formerly enslaved ancestors who farmed the same land they do
By Jackie Clark
Shannon Prince, a Black Canadian farmer, and her family have deep roots in southwestern Ontario.
Prince’s husband, Bryan Prince, can trace his family history in the community to 1850. His great-great-great-grandmother Francis – called Fanny – settled in the Elgin Settlement, on what is now the 8th line.
The Elgin Settlement, also known as Buxton, was a vibrant community of formerly enslaved Black people.
Franny was formerly enslaved in South Carolina. It is not known whether she and her children fled using the Underground Railroad or with the consent of the slave owner, who was also the father of her children. She settled in Buxton and grew spring wheat, potatoes, beans, hay and corn. Fanny also raised a few livestock.
Shannon and Bryan Prince have, over time, inherited and purchased land that belonged to their ancestors in Buxton. The couple have four children who live in the area and farm part-time.
“We're blessed every day to share those moments with them and now their children,” Prince said.
The hardworking and collaborative spirit of the Black people who settled Buxton dovetails with the supportive nature of farming communities in the area today.
“It doesn't matter if you're a Black farmer or if you're a white farmer here. We all are facing the same challenges. So, if we can't get all our soybeans planted and we know rain is on the horizon, one of our neighbors will come in, fill up his or her drill, and continue to plant,” Prince said.
Black farmers are an important part of Canada’s history, as well as the current agricultural landscape. However, Black farmers are rarely represented in leadership roles of farm organizations or commodity groups.
“I think there is an interest; it would be nice to see that diversity. But I think (the push) has to come from the farmers themselves. And I don't think there would be any opposition … I would hope not,” said Prince.
Prince is also the curator of Buxton National Historic Site and Museum. You can learn more about the history of Buxton here.
For advice on how to begin talking more about race and inclusion in agriculture, click here.
Shannon Prince photo