Appomattox producer Ora McCoy named NRCS Farmer of the Year

Editor’s Note: Ora McCoy will receive the USDA NRCS Farmer of the Year award at Virginia State University’s Small Farm Outreach Conference at the Hotel Roanoke on Nov. 20. 

APPOMATTOX. Va. – About 16,000 people live in Virginia’s historic Appomattox County and Ora Scruggs McCoy isn’t exaggerating when she says she’s met just about all of them.

Some of them got to know her in 1975 when she was named the county’s first female postmaster (the first African American to hold the position). Others may have encountered her during an eight-year hitch on the county school board or at three local churches where she served as a pianist. Today, McCoy spends much of her “free time” promoting the Carver-Price Legacy Museum, which emphasizes local African American heritage in a place where history often seems to start and stop on April 9, 1865.*

“There are lots of stories here in Appomattox,” McCoy said. “I think they should all be heard.”

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is pleased to help share the story of this longtime community activist by recognizing her as its 2021 Farmer of the Year.

“This award recognizes and honors minority producers who are outstanding stewards of the land and promote conservation in their communities,” said Dr. Edwin Martinez Martinez, NRCS' state conservationist for Virginia. “Ms. McCoy checks both boxes and we are thrilled to have a small part in preserving the land she so dearly loves.”

The story of Scruggs Farm begins at the end of the Civil War when newly freed slaves Daniel and Phoebe Scruggs actually received the often mythical “40 acres and a mule” Union military commanders promised to all emancipated slaves. The family holdings increased to 335 acres over three generations, but much of the property was sold after the death of McCoy's father. McCoy, her late husband and her son, Edward McCoy, Jr., all invested considerable time, effort, and resources to buy back all but about 13 acres divided among numerous heirs.

Find out more in the upcoming issue of the Times Virginian newspaper. Pick up a copy or subscribe at www.timesvirginian.com/subscriber_services to view the full article in the e-edition version.