Through our work, SAAFON promotes the links among Black farming, Black culture and Black history

Cynthia Hayes

Co – Founder 1950 – 2016

Always with us

Dr. Owusu Bandele

Co – Founder, Former Board Member


is Professor Emeritus of the Southern University Ag Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a current SAAFON Board member, and, alongside the late “Ma” Cynthia Hayes, is one of SAAFON’s co-founders. As a Professor at Southern, Baba Owusu conducted organic production workshops throughout the Southeastern U.S., the Caribbean, and Africa. In the 1990s, Baba Owusu and his wife, Efuru, established the Food For Thought Organic Farm, which was the only African American owned certified organic operation in Louisiana at the time. Dr. Bandele has also been a middle and high school teacher in Baltimore City; served on the National Organic Standards Board; founded the 27-year old Black History Quiz Bowl at Southern University; and with colleague Dr. Gail Myers, and many others, has contributed critically to the thought and practice of Black Agrarianism. Dr. Bandele’s years of work, expertise, and dedication were recently recognized in the form of the 2021 George Washington Carver Public Service Hall of Fame Award. 

Yvette Browne

Board Chair

US Virgin Islands

Co-Owner of Sejah Farms of the US Virgin Islands currently serves as the Chairwoman of SAAFON’s Board. Her voice along with her husband serves as an advocate for the status of agriculture and the continued development of the state of the territories and the need for change. She has received many awards and recognition for her work in her community. Sejah Farms of the US Virgin Islands, located on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, was established in 1998 and is owned and operated by Mrs. Browne and her husband, Dale Browne. Their farm consists of thirty-two acres of farmland that are used to graze sheep, goats, grow a variety of vegetables, poultry, and egg production, and a training outlet for local small farmers in their location. Sejah Farm has been committed to providing quality meats and sustainable vegetables in the U.S. Virgin Islands to meet the local market demand. Their farm is also home to educational workshops including seminars, training, and consultations for farmers and the broader community. Mr. & Mrs. Browne were the founders of the Virgin Islands Farmers’ Cooperative, Inc., developed for the revival of the Virgin Islands agricultural industry. They are also founders of Island Food Security Network; a small growers group developed to meet large-scale wholesale demand from small farmers. Their Farm is home to the local annual event Bush Cook / Chef Cook known across the region as a showcase of their local agricultural arena. They are also members of the Federation of Southern Cooperative based in Atlanta Georgia. She serves as Executive Director for Slow Food VI and has represented the Virgin Islands in Italy at the Slow Food International Conferences. 

Jesse Buie

Board Vice Chair


Jesse Buie has been farming for 20 years and currently works as President/Farmer of Ole Brook Organics, Inc, out of Brookhaven, MS, which has been certified organic for five years. Mr. Buie is Vice-Chair of the SAAFON Board. He is also a member of the National Organic Standards Board. Ole Brook produces mixed vegetables and melons and has started growing ginger and turmeric to produce a private label organic tea. In addition to farming, Mr. Buie keeps himself busy as the President and CEO of Total Care Solutions, a healthcare management firm; as Owner and Chief Pilot of Airtravel South, Inc., a pilot training and aircraft rental company; and Co-Owner of Capital City Children’s & Adolescent’s Clinic, which provides health services for ages birth to 21 years. Mr. Buie is a Veteran of the United States Army Medical Service Corps and is a recipient of the Army Achievement Medal for Meritorious Service and the Army Commendation Medal. He holds a BS in Chemistry  from Dillard University (New Orleans, LA), and a Master of Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 

Dr. Cindy Ayers Elliott

Board Treasurer


Farmer – Footprint Farms

A native Mississippian, is the Treasurer of the SAAFON Board. Ms. Cindy holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Ph.D. from Jackson State University. The 9-11 terrorist attack was a tipping point for Ms. Cindy, and she moved back home to Mississippi. After a further epiphany in 2010, she traded in her heels for boots, although her dream of becoming a farmer didn’t happen overnight. She began with a small garden and took it upon herself to visit institutions like Alcorn State University and her local United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA/NRCS) office to learn more about how to successfully manage a farm. Today, as the founder-owner of Foot Print Farms, she grows an array of natural fruits and vegetables, while also raising goats, chickens, cattle, and horses. Her vivid pink bus, a trademark symbol ofFoot Print, is also used to transport goods to various farmers’ markets and pop-up shops throughout the region. In 2021, Dr. Ayers- Elliot was also a Selected Farmer of the Year by the Southern Federation of Cooperatives Mississippi Association and Alcorn State University. 

Sandra Simone


Sandra is an innovative and pioneering farmer, an original farmer-member of SAAFON, and a newly elected member of the SAAFON Board. After many years as a professional jazz singer, and with the encouragement of her late husband Harold Burke, Sandra Simone returned to her ancestral land in Alabama. She currently operates on over 100 acres of land ancestral land located in Alpine, AL. On a small portion of the land that was acquired by her great grandfather in the early 1870s, she nurtures meat goats, and sheep and grows organic herbs, vegetables, and huckleberries. A key part of her agricultural work is as a passionate and devoted educator—at her farm, community development and introducing youth to land stewardship are the most important components of the operation.  


Blain Snipstal


Blain is a peasant, agroecology activist, member of the SAAFON Board, BDFC, and timber framer with Earth-Bound Building. Blain has over 12 years of lived experience in farming and land-based organizing both domestically and internationally. Deeply passionate about community, Blain is committed to strengthening the symbiotic ties between land, farmers, and community power.  


Terry Hayes


Terry Hayes is a Board Member of SAAFON and the husband of SAAFON’s late co-founder, Cynthia Hayes. Mr. Hayes has been an integral part of the birth and growth of SAAFON, serving as a thought partner and sounding board for Cynthia, as well as the visual documenter for the organization. Mr. Hayes originally met Cynthia at a reggae concert in San Francisco in 1986, and they shared a love for the Caribbean, especially for Jamaica. They married in 1988, and in 1991, they moved to Montego Bay where Cynthia worked with local farmers to produce value-added products and organized a summer camp for US inner-city boys to experience Black life and culture in a different part of the African Diaspora. In 2000, Mr. Hayes and Cynthia moved to Savannah, GA, where he supported Cynthia’s continued work centered on land, environmental justice, and supporting African American farmers. Mr. Hayes and Cynthia were closely involved with the Georgia African American Historic Preservation Network (GAAPHN) and both became members of the Steering Committee. Often seen riding his bicycle around Savannah, Mr. Hayes continues to be a guiding force for SAAFON and is dedicated to its continued work.