Utah Farm and Fork caught up with France Davis, the retired pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church, where he presided for 46 years. In addition to his years behind the pulpit, Davis taught in the Communications Department of the University of Utah and was an acclaimed civil rights leader, having marched from Selma to Montgomery. Davis was an associate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, and during his time in Utah as served on the Utah Board of Corrections, was the black member of the statewide Board of Regents which oversees higher education, and was even the chaplain for the University of Utah football team.

What is your hometown? Where have you lived during your life?
I am originally from Gough, Georgia, 2,000 miles from Salt Lake City. I grew up on a cotton and corn farm, that had animals also. I’ve also lived in Alabama, California, Florida, Idaho, Nevada, and Thailand, much of this when I served in the military. We currently live in Cottonwood Heights.

Tell us about your family growing up, and your childhood. What about your family now?
I grew up with my father and mother – and eight sisters and brothers. The first five were old enough to be my parents. I was the next to youngest. I grew up attending Robinson Grove Baptist church, playing in the dirt barefooted. We walked three miles to elementary school and were later bused to a segregated high school.

I now have a wife, two daughters and one son, four grandchildren, and one great-grandson. My wife and I are empty nesters now, as I’ve retired here in Salt Lake City.

Were you raised on a farm or a ranch? If so, what type of animals did you raise, and/or the crops did you grow? Also, if so, what chores did you have? Any that you particularly liked or disliked?
I was raised on the farm. We had mules, cows, hogs, chickens, turkeys, and dogs. We also grew peaches, pears, corn, wheat, cotton, oats, collards, cabbage, okra, watermelon, and cantaloupe to eat & sell. I fed animals, milked cows, cleaned the yard, cooked, and did many other household chores.

Did you have favorite things to do as a child? Or things you hated doing?
I helped peel and can fruit. I hated having to feed the animals in the cold weather. It was really hard working in the fields.

Were you the perfect child? Or perhaps a little less than perfect?
I was NOT a perfect child. I had to be disciplined to do some things and not to be mean to the animals.

What type of student were you while growing up?
I was an ‘A’ student who attended school regularly. I enjoyed writing, as well as English and history classes, but I did not do well in math.

What do you do in your career?
I have taught communications at the University of Utah and pastored a church.

Do you have (or plan to have) a garden and/or fruit trees?
I have a garden of tomatoes, collards, cabbage, and beans.

How would you classify yourself from an eating standpoint? Are you an omnivore (someone who eats any and everything), an herbivore (someone who just eats plants), someone on a paleo diet (just meats and dairy products), or something else?
I eat meats, vegetables, and fruits.

Additionally, are you someone who eats because they have to? Or are you someone who eats because you love to eat?
I eat because I have to!

Is there a restaurant in Utah you like to go to?
I like to go to Famous Dave’s BBQ, Popeyes, and Cracker Barrel.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?
Cheese & Chitlins.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had? And why?
I love having seafood and rice. I love ribs as well because it reminds me of home.

What was the favorite meal/food you ate growing up? Or what food memories do you have from your childhood?
I often remember eating collards as well as watermelons. I loved eating fried foods, like catfish and chicken.

Have you visited a farm/ranch or farmers market in Utah before?
I like to visit the downtown farmers market in Pioneer Park.

Describe to me your favorite kind of meal, something you eat on a fairly regular basis.
I like to cook vegetables and fish, with my favorite dish being fried fish.

If you don’t want to cook anything fancy or elaborate, what is your basic comfort food you like to eat?
I like eating breakfast foods. Sausages, grits, and eggs!

In your work with families in our community, what impact does food insecurity have, and do you think it is connected to other struggles a family or individual may have?
Food security is very important. It keeps one from fretting, worrying, and out-of-control blood pressure! We grow enough food for everybody. Distribution is the big problem.