Hemp, Clarenda Stanley

Interview with Clarenda Stanley, N4J’s MD of Farmer Inclusion (Part 2)

Clarenda Stanley
Clarenda Stanley

is an award-winning fundraiser, communications professional, and CEO/Founder of Green Heffa Farms, the nation’s first Certified B Corp Black-owned farm. Clarenda hosted the first-ever W.A.S.H. event in North Carolina in early October.

She took a break from her morning farming recently to give me the lowdown on what it was all about.

Click here if you missed Part 1 of the interview.

W.A.S.H. (We Are Still Here) is part of my farm’s corporate social responsibility program.  I own an NC-based vertically scaled agricultural business, Green Heffa Farms, and part of our business model is giving back and supporting other farmers who face historical and contemporary challenges in the US domestic agricultural space.

As a single black woman, I am sort of a unicorn in a sense, as in addition to being a farmer, I am also a landowner and farm owner. I also specialize in specialty crops, namely medicinal plants and herbs. Sometimes the distinction is lost on how significant that is for a farmer to actually own a farm because here in the US a lot of farmers lease or rent farmland.

W.A.S.H. developed from an idea I had that I shared in a conversation with Patagonia Workwear, a fellow B Corp and one of my farm’s corporate partners. They had reached out to me previously as they were looking to connect with Black farmers who could potentially source hemp fiber, helping them to work more inclusively and domestically in the US. Hemp is one of the crops I grow (I grow over 24 different species of plants).

Clarenda Stanley on her farm
Photo credit: Clifford Mervil (Patagonia Workwear)

However, I specialize in growing artisanal hemp flowers, not cultivars that are more suited for fiber. I offered to connect Patagonia with a fellow Black farmer that does grow hemp for fiber. I also ran my crazy idea around them – to gather a group of climate-focused farmers together with a group of companies interested in creating more inclusivity and diversity in the supply chain. Each attending farmer would be compensated for attending the conversation.

They said yes almost immediately. Other partners, including N4J signed on to support and we were able to host a wonderful event.

The event was held Saturday, October 1, 2022. We had invited 20 farmers, and 15 farmers came. A few spouses remained at the farm. In addition to each farmer receiving a $1,000 stipend, an additional $9,000 was raised for Toxic Free NC’s efforts to keep harmful chemicals out of agriculture. More than $16,000 was invested in either BIPOC-owned or local businesses, demonstrating yet another way farmers impact their communities and economic development. 

Hurricane Ian came through on Friday so we had to cancel our outdoor event scheduled for the previous evening. Luckily, our convening on Saturday was relatively calm though we started with limited power and no internet access. Unfortunately, this meant that partners who had planned to join virtually were unable to do so.

Despite the weather conditions, the ‘We Are Still Here’  ethos was quite apt as farmers still came and were so appreciative for the opportunity to share and connect with other farmers and to engage with other companies and organizations that are serious about partnering with them. 

Though some of our partners and sponsors could not attend due to the weather, those that did really stepped up to the plate and were able to adapt and adjust to the last-minute agenda changes. It made for a wonderful event with really positive reviews.

Hank and N4J are committed to helping with an outdoor W.A.S.H event in the spring to replace the outdoor component event we had to cancel due to the weather.

Photo credit: Clifford Mervil (Patagonia Workwear)

The ultimate goal of both W.A.S.H and N4J’s Farmer Inclusion is to support BIPOC farmers. W.A.S.H,  centers the voices of Black and Indigenous farmers.

It is an exciting time to partner and collaborate with organizations that are also very much committed to ensuring that all farmers are included in the climate change conversation.

W.A.S.H. is focused on inclusion in the supply chain with farmers interested in growing climate-smart commodities. My farm, the country’s first Black farm to attain Certified B Corp status, focuses on what we have dubbed the 4E’s: Environment, Equity, Economic Prosperity, and Education. Each of these is a key component when talking about farmer inclusion and it is definitely something that I want to help Nature for Justice with as well.

In order to get all farmers equitably included in climate resiliency work, we also have to ensure that they are empowered with the economic resources that are needed to create this resiliency. So I am excited to have that conversation with N4J as well.

I look forward to working with N4J to also ensure that there is a global conversation coming from this because what we learn through farmer inclusion here in the US can help inform us and can help us with collaborating with farmers around the world. In my previous job, I was able to see the agricultural work that is happening across the globe and especially the role that women play in the agricultural space.

We really are leaders in this space and supporting inclusion also means supporting the role of women globally in agriculture.

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