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delta diamond

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Delta Diamond: Pioneering Black Ownership in the Agricultural Supply Chain

In the heart of Mississippi’s second-leading county for crop production, historic Bolivar County, Delta Diamond Ag LLC stands as the first Black-owned multi-grain elevator, following a recent acquisition.

Led by Leigh Allen, whose family’s roots span five generations in the Delta, Delta Diamond is a symbol of heritage and advancement. It’s also a reminder of the pressing need for more Black-owned manufacturing and processing facilities in the agricultural supply chain.

Delta Diamond

Delta Diamond boasts a robust infrastructure with a 400,000-bushel concrete elevator, a modern seed cleaning plant, warehousing capabilities, and an additional 2.8 acres earmarked for future expansion opportunities. Their facilities can receive a variety of grains, including corn, soybeans, rice, yellow field peas, and more.

What’s more, their extensive network of growers enables them to provide contract growing services, cementing their role as a crucial player in enhancing Black ownership and representation in the agricultural supply chain.

In this interview, we’ll dive deeper into Leigh’s remarkable journey, the acquisition of Big River Grain Co, their commitment to sustainability, and plans for the future.

What was the inspiration behind founding Delta Diamond?

The inspiration of Delta Diamond was driven by the recognition that being vertically integrated and having a diversification of value-added products and services was essential in mitigating risk. 

As the agriculture industry continues to evolve in trends such as consolidation; digitalization; and regenerative farming, I believed that it was critical to ensure that we were at the table not only as producers but, as owners of such a facility.  The appreciation and desire to be engaged in agriculture was instilled in me at a very young age via a multi-generational family history in row crop production in the Arkansas Delta.     

The acquisition of Big River Grain Co. is a significant milestone. What strategic considerations led to this decision? 

Chiefly, location and access: our facility is located in the Mississippi River Delta which as a region utilizes upwards of 60 percent of its land for agricultural purposes. The facility is located only 17 miles from the Mississippi River Port of Rosedale and 100 miles south of Memphis, TN. 

Cleveland is located in Bolivar County, Mississippi’s second-leading county in terms of crop production, and is next door to the historic town of Mound Bayou, which still to this day has a prominent role in agriculture and is home to Alcorn State University’s Extension/Research Farm & Technology Transfer Center. Ultimately, for us to achieve our goals it is imperative that we afford all growers the same level of customer service regardless of their background or the size of their farming operations.

Secondly, the expertise and relationships that the Delta Diamond organization possesses has enabled us to be well-positioned to work with potential businesses and foreign countries as a supplier and partner.  

Finally, the fact that we happen to be minority-owned we hope will serve as a plus to those considering doing business with us, however, at the end of the day we understand that it is our performance and customer service which will distinguish us from our competitors.  Fortunately, our cumulative track record demonstrates just that, and we remain focused on building upon those past successes. 

Delta Diamond

Becoming the first Black-owned multi-grain elevator and seed cleaning facility in the U.S. is a remarkable achievement. How do you plan to leverage this unique position?

Thank you kindly.  We are cognizant of this achievement and consider it a blessing.  That being said, Delta Diamond is in talks with several major corporate entities and producers as we explore mutually beneficial collaborative projects. We hope to bring along the next generation of Black agribusiness entrepreneurs.

Many folks have written off the Mid-South, particularly as it relates to the Delta region.  We appreciate the ability to work with a firm like S3 Procurement Services in accomplishing this goal.  That doesn’t negate the fact that a considerable portion of the best people and hardest workers I know have Delta roots and this is a chance to highlight that to the world. 

Could you elaborate on the sustainable practices and initiatives your company plans to implement in the agricultural sector?

We have already been active in leading and participating in research field trials for products such as non-GMO soybeans.  We certainly believe that a market exists for non-GMOs and specialty grains in ideal places where it makes sense.  This is ultimately predicated on maintaining or improving both productivity and/or profitability for the producer. 

For those companies and producers that do feel it’s feasible and strategically beneficial to their operations, Delta Diamond wants to be a synergistic partner in those sustainable ag efforts.  As for the facility, we are seeking to incorporate the latest technologies like cloud-based analysis, AI, and renewable energy which will allow us to reduce energy costs while operating in an efficient and effective manner. 

Additionally, we will assist our grower partners in identifying premium opportunities and technologies that will provide another tool in revenue generation that may not have been previously accessible to him or her.       

Looking ahead, what are your future plans and aspirations for Delta Diamond?

Near term, our immediate attention is executing the relevant certifications and licenses needed for not only warehousing grain but exporting as well. By doing so it will position us to develop and grow our core business.  We look forward to working with local stakeholders such as the Cleveland-Bolivar County Chamber of Commerce, and the greater community, and contributing to the ongoing economic revitalization happening in Cleveland.

Looking further out, we want to be able to move into food processing and that’s where the logistical infrastructure of Memphis comes into play.  I believe that the city of Memphis offers some pretty impressive capabilities to Delta Diamond and our plans for expansion and upscaling.

In the meantime, we are firmly committed to working on having a successful operation.  We hope that Delta Diamond will serve as an inspiration to others who may want to travel down the proverbial “road less traveled” in their respective industry.

by Tony O. Lawson

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