Farmer name: Clarenda “Farmer Cee” Stanley
Acreage: 14.84 acres
Location: Liberty, NC
Year Founded: 2018
Affordability Tools: Purchase
Farm Operation: organic and regeneratively grown herbs and medicinal plants, including hemp flower
Farmer Clarenda “Cee” Stanley is the Chief Executive Officer and Owner of Green Heffa Farms located near Liberty, North Carolina. She’s a “new and beginning farmer,” but her operation is multifaceted: Green Heffa Farms is a vertically scaled farm, a tea company, a wellness brand, and an educational resource.
After a successful career as a highly regarded fundraiser for global non-profits and a Vice-President for a higher education institution, she was ready for a new path that offered healing, connection to the land, and the opportunity to reimagine a legacy for her and her family. In 2018, she founded Green Heffa Farms, lovingly named from moments with her grandmother and a manifestation of an economically successful and environmentally conscious business, hence Green. She is a student of traditional, heritage, and Indigenous farming practices and incorporates honor and reverence to the ancestors throughout the farm’s processes, products, and presentations.
From Raw Land to Lush Farm
When Farmer Cee decided to start a farm business, it was not an overnight path to success. After purchasing the property, she started by taking Journeyman classes offered through her state’s agriculture extension program and learned through trial, error, and success to prepare for farming. From laying electrical wiring, underground plumbing, and infrastructure construction to obtaining building permits and drilling wells, she spent years establishing the foundational elements of her farm work that still continues.
All 14 acres are owned by Farmer Cee, along with a 20-acre tree farm she inherited in Alabama; ultimately, her goal is to own a minimum of 40 acres. Her land and businesses are protected by a Revocable Living Trust, which offers the flexibility to make changes or additions if necessary while living and outlines assets, funds, and documents covered by the Trust. “My children can decide to make changes to the business. They can sell the brand or brands if they choose. But the land stays. And the commitment to caring for it is our responsibility to pass on,” says Farmer Cee. While she leads the farm and businesses, her growth method is to keep debt low and grow slowly, mindful not to acquire more debt than necessary. “We grow slow, so we don’t owe” is one of her many coined phrases.
“You may out-farm me, but you won’t out-brand me.” — Farmer Cee
Green Heffa Farms pushes the perceived limits of a typical small farm operation. Green Heffa Farms is B-Corp Certified, the first Black-owned farm to hold this certification. “I pay people the best that I can. More than what most farms in my area pay. That means my team is small. My goal is to ensure that no one who works with us should worry about caring for their families when farming. I need them to be at peace here. It is better for the plants,” explained Farmer Cee. “I am just trying to show others that it can be done. You can start a farm in your 40s, as a single woman, as a Black farmer, as an entrepreneur, and you can have the quality of life you want. And you can do it while contributing to the greater good, being a voice for equity and the environment, and enjoying organic fiber sheets with high thread counts,” she says with a chuckle. “I don’t do struggle farming.”
The sustainability framework for Green Heffa Farms is conveyed through what the company refers to as its 4E’s Solution:
ECONOMIC PROSPERITY: We seek to provide an innovative network and capacity building efforts that connects farmers to resources and enables them to streamline farm operations and prioritize growing boutique quality crops in a sustainable manner. We want to provide jobs to the local communities and give back philanthropically into programs and projects that benefit the underserved and underrepresented.
EQUITY: We seek to help maintain current minority land ownership, increase equity and inclusion in agribusiness, with a focus on medicinal plants and specialty crops grown for the natural beauty and health industries.
ENVIRONMENT: We will encourage farmers to use best ecological practices to protect soil health, maintain crop yields and increase arm profitability. By having a model farm, farmers are able to see firsthand how environmental stewardship can benefit a farm’s bottom line.
EDUCATION: We will provide specialized educational training and opportunities to build capacity of small farmers and community organizations.
Retrieved from www.greenheffafarms.com/about
If you search for “Farmer Cee” or “Green Heffa Farms”, you will find a library of original content: educational videos, courses, news articles, and a shop of value-added products. Through her farm, she has developed a platform to educate other growers, especially Black women farmers, on business aspects of owning a farm, including obtaining federal grants, creating social media content, developing strategic relationships, sharing regenerative growing practices, and finding ways to diversify farm income. She also shares moments in her own life and journey as a single Black woman owning a family-centered farm operation. Her authenticity has accrued a beloved following, but she is no influencer. “I recognize and acknowledge that I have influence. But I also know the responsibility that comes with that. I am a farmer first. May the way we do business be the biggest influence.”
This case study authored by Renee Smith-Nickelson MFALP ’18.