Volunteering leads us to seek out community.
Cornelius Blanding grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, amongst many families like his own who lost their family land and had little if any ownership in the communities in which they lived. He recognized the powerlessness his community felt, and after college, Cornelius took the first steps on a mission now more than 20 years in the making, to change the reality many economically poor communities and family farmers still face all over the world today. As the Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, Cornelius helps farmers and landowners with limited resources hold onto their land and form cooperatives and credit unions in order to build wealth.
“My volunteer service with The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund and other cooperative organizations is primarily centered around helping rural, limited resource communities around the world,” says Cornelius. “The focus of my service involves farmers and cooperatives in the Southern United States, Africa, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. My efforts are usually centered on farmer-to-farmer exchanges, cooperative development, and business and marketing planning. By helping farmers establish cooperatives and gain financial independence, we are also developing people to become leaders in their communities.”
The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, founded in 1967, is a non-profit association of black farmers, landowners, and cooperatives located in the South. Their mission is to be a catalyst for the development of self-supporting communities, chiefly by helping black farmers save, protect and expand their landholdings and wealth. In 1910, there were roughly 218,000 black farmers owning about 15 million acres of land. Today, less than 20,000 black farmers own only a little more than 2 million acres of land.
Earlier this year, Cornelius was honored with the Leadership Award from the James Beard Foundation for his work in creating a healthier, safer, and more equitable sustainable food system.
“I feel volunteering in my local community is important because we are all necessary parts of our communities, and ultimately responsible to and for them,” says Cornelius. “We have a responsibility to leave our local community, and the larger community, a better place than we found them.”
When he’s not volunteering, Cornelius likes to play baseball. His favorite Cabot cheddars are Vermont Sharp and Farmhouse Reserve. Cornelius will be joined on the cruise by his wife Edwanna.