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Growing food and community: Midlands woman wins South Carolina Woman Farmer of the Year by Black Farmers Coalition

Bonita Clemons started the FarmaSis movement in 2016 with the goal of teaching 10,000 Black women about farming. Now, she's won the SC Woman Farmer of the Year.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — This year’s South Carolina Woman Farmer of the Year, awarded by the SC Black Farmers Coalition, is from right here in the Midlands. 

"I got started because I got tired of hearing myself complaining about the rising cost of food," Clemons says about her start with farming, after growing up seeing her family work as farmers.

Farming has been a passion for Clemons for years, and it’s why she’s been named as this year’s South Carolina Woman Farmer of the Year.

"People are really paying attention to the work that’s being done. That people understand that women have lot of influence in this area which we know is predominantly male-dominated," Clemons explains. "A lot of times we pay attention to things [men] don't and when we work together and work collaboratively, then we’re more successful."

It’s for her work as a farmer and mentor. Clemons started the FarmaSis movement in 2016 with the goal of teaching 10,000 Black women across the midlands like Renea Clemons how to farm

"I've learned about soil, I’ve learned about how to plant and I’m looking forward to planting some food," Renea laughs.

Renea is a student in this year’s class, which started last month. 

Originally, Renea says she wasn't interested in participating in the classes, led by her big sister.

"Then I thought I need a hobby and what better way than to come play out here in the dirt like I used to when I was a little girl," Renea says.

And now, Renea tells me she's "actually enjoyed it. It’s interesting. I'm excited on Monday when we meet."

She meets with other students like Carmen Tisdale every week, building community as they learn how to farm.

"We grew together, we ate together, we got to know each other really well and became more like sisters," Tisdale says.

It’s why Tisdale has been taking the classes since Clemons started them in 2016.

"I want Black women to understand that their health should be their priority at all times and the best way to start regaining good health is to start with nutrition and the better way is to start with nutrition with food that you grow," Clemons tells me.

"Her having this mission just shows the importance of the Black women’s role, our leadership in feeding our families," Tisdale shares.

FarmaSis aims to encourage Black women to not only improve their health and wellness while working collectively, but also it aims to spread economic development and show the benefits of growing your own food.

Clemons also uses FarmaSis to feed the community by sharing some of the fresh grown produce with different residents and organizations.

It also helps with a healing process, Clemons says.

"We’re gonna heal ourselves through this land that once we had to work for no money. We were made to work," Clemons explains. "There is a lot of still trauma behind that and we’re seeking to heal that and we’re seeking to improve our health."

"Come on out sisters. Let’s do this," Tisdale invites. "There's nothing to it but to do it and if you commit to it, stay with it, you'll see the difference in your family."

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