Brandi Clark also known as Farmer B at her microfarm in San Antonio, Texas

Shifting from providing produce to the people, a farmer’s reinvention caught a new wave in farming education

3 mins read

The pandemic saw thousands of Americans dive into the age-old vocation of farming. For some, the intentions to dive into agriculture were genuine, but many had to rethink their passion.

An unusually early-winter frost swept Texas just after the new year. Those who either planted or were beginning to till the rigid dirt had to readjust to nature’s unexpected plans. On a late day in January, I walked with Brandi Clark on her San Antonio microfarm as she surveyed the damage of the winter weather. The ground showed signs of plantlings peeking out of the deep brown soil, Clark was still relieved. It had been roughly two-and-a-half months since she announced that she would discontinue selling produce. Indeed, growing would be slower, but it would not impact her bottom line.

Produce to the People started in 2020 when Clark purchased land as an owner-operator. She would become one of 151,147 women in agriculture residing in the Lone Star State, making her a member of the largest representation of women farmers than any other state in the nation. A dedicated farmer with a passion for growing food for her community, every season she harvested, cleaned and packed a variety of vegetables that could spring up in a climate that often faced drought conditions.

Clark realized early on that her role was not just to grow food, but also to educate others about the importance of locally sourced, nutrient-rich produce. She found herself advocating for food that traveled fewer miles, highlighting how this approach resulted in better-tasting, more nourishing meals. This aspect of her work was essential, as black communities have long faced disparities in food access and health outcomes, often exacerbated by a lack of fresh produce in urban areas. 

When thinking of how to get her produce to her people, Clark knew she had to create a marketing campaign that brought customers and informed them at the same time. As Clark worked the land, she began documenting her journey on various social media platforms and a newsletter. Gradually, she gained followers on Instagram and Youtube, but found a particular niche via her TikTok account, farmerb.co.  

While Clark’s social media presence thrived, she began to encounter the tough realities of running a farming business alone. Despite the initial enthusiasm, and after investing in planting and building a greenhouse, Clark found that the financial pressures and labor demands of a small farm made sustainability challenging. 

Clark’s journey reflects a broader narrative among black women farmers in the United States, many of whom face unique challenges in a historically unequal agricultural landscape. According to data from the USDA research, black farmers, particularly women, have historically had fewer resources, less access to capital, and more systemic barriers to land ownership compared to their white counterparts. This has led to a persistent struggle for equitable opportunities within the farming industry.

So, in late 2023, she decided to shutter her operations, of which provided weekly harvests. While it was difficult, Clark saw a silver lining—pivot from CSAs to agricultural edutainment via social media.

Brandi Clark offers gardening resources and tutorials from her Texas farm. Photo credit: Duane Reed/Ark Republic

As Clark shared her knowledge and experiences on social media, she gained a substantial following, with over 67,000 followers on TikTok. This shift towards online education and community-building became a key source of revenue, allowing her to move away from the unsustainable aspects of running a physical farming business to the online personality, Farmer B. Through her platform, Farmer B shares valuable insights on planting, harvesting, garden clean-ups, and building raised beds from scratch, offering practical advice to aspiring farmers and gardeners.

Clark’s transformation from a traditional farmer to an online educator underscores the adaptability and resilience of black women farmers. Despite overreaching challenges, these women continue to find innovative ways to support their communities and advocate for food justice. According to this NBC News article, black women farmers are increasingly turning to social media and other platforms to share their stories, build networks, and promote the significance of black-owned agriculture.

One of the key lessons Clark shares with her audience is the importance of collaboration in farming. She emphasizes the need for at least two people or departments: one focused on fieldwork and another on business and marketing. This approach not only reduces burnout, but also promotes sustainability, a crucial aspect in a field where many black farmers face economic instability.

Today, Clark’s focus is on experimentation and innovation, exploring new crops and teaching her audience about self-sustainability, food preservation, and seed saving. Her platform, farmerb.co, serves as a virtual hub for her community, with links to her newsletter, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. 

Clark’s journey from a struggling farmer to a thriving educator is also a growing part of online agricultural communities; and especially during a time when food prices skyrocket and interest in healthy, local food increases, people in the U.S.—across ages and ethnicities—are beginning starter gardens and urban green patches. Despite the heartbreaking stories of land sabotage or losing farms in the black communities, women like Clark continue to defy the odds, using their platforms to inspire, educate, and create lasting change in their communities.

This is part of our ongoing series covering the experiences of Black agriculturalists for our sister organization, Black Farmers Index.

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