Earth Month 2021: my sustainable agriculture feature with Wrangler
Clothing memories from the ’80s: OshKosh B’gosh. Duck Head. Levi And, of course, Wrangler. Standard attire for farmland childhood. Now, it’s one thing to wear them. Completely different story to collaborate professionally with them on causes you genuinely care about. Mine: sustainable agriculture. Leading up to Earth Day 2021 (held April 22 annually), Wrangler profiled those who practice sustainable agriculture as a lifestyle. My editorial foundation. Covering Rural America and Black farmers of the Georgia Black Belt who take land care to heart. Wrangler photojournalist Ivan McClellan traveled from Portland, Oregon, to the Peach State to document my rural journalism life on the land.
Certified organic hemp farmer Sedrick Rowe joined the storytelling experience. Rowe and my work relationship in sustainable agriculture is what interested Ivan to fly 2,778 miles in the first place. See, I produced a series of local stories about Sedrick’s history-making moves as a certified organic peanut and hemp farmer in Middle Georgia. The small town coverage created a national buzz that earned Sedrick a feature spot in The New York Times. An online article about climate and inequality as the Biden administration organized its priorities. “I saw that New York Times photo by Matt Odom and wanted to meet Sedrick,” said Ivan. So Wrangler made it happen. April 10 Ivan arrived to Rowe Organic Farms in Albany, Georgia. His 6,500-liked Insta story after meeting Sed and me at work:
Story and images by Ivan McClellan for Wrangler
“I am a fourth-generation cattle farmer.” That’s how Candace Dantes enthusiastically introduces herself. She wears boots, a cowboy hat, and a belt buckle, but it’s more than style for her. It’s part of her heritage. On her family’s 300-acre farm outside of Milledgeville, GA, she learned to brand cattle, ride horses and garden. She also learned that every day on the farm is unpredictable. “You just went with the flow of farm life, like I do with my journalism career. Some of the best stories I discover usually happen at unusual times and places like Piggly Wiggly.”
Her connection to the land and a curiosity about other Black farmers led her to become an agricultural journalist. “Black farmers’ stories are important. To these farmers, I’m like a cousin or a sister. Once they start talking, I learn we’re connected in many ways.” She also helps them market and brand their agribusinesses through U.S. Department of Agriculture grant project Black Farmers’ Network (BFN). From creating shoppable websites to developing social media strategy, she guides farmers online to compete in a digital marketplace.
Candace met Sedrick Rowe in 2019 at Fort Valley State University (FVSU) as part of her reporting with BFN. “I thought it was so cool to see such a young Black farmer as the institution’s greenhouse manager,” she said. Sedrick was introduced to agriculture at FVSU while playing football there. He saw a lack of organic farming in the state and decided to carve out a niche growing organic peanuts, hemp, watermelon and sunflowers. “Your health starts with what you eat. Playing sports, you eat healthy and stay in shape. I wanted to provide people the right and healthy stuff to put in their bodies.” said Sedrick.
Sedrick found that to be a successful farmer in today’s market, you needed to grow a quality product & have good marketing. That’s where Candace and BFN came in, helping Rowe Organic Farms LLC create a digital and branding strategy. Together they’ve earned national attention and helped transform narratives about Black farmers in America’s Black Belt Region.