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Woman at Work: Clarenda “Farmer Cee” Stanley, CEO/Farmer, Green Heffa Farms

What does a day in your work life look like?

As the CEO of an artisanal herbal brand that operates its own farm, my typical workday is a blend of strategic planning, farm operations, product development, brand building, and business management – no two days are alike!

I typically start with a walking inspection of our 15-acre organic herb farm (I workout!) to assess our herbal ingredients’ growth and health. I’ll go through the fields, inspect our cover crops, consult with my farm operations team, and ensure that sustainable and regenerative farming practices are being followed.

I’ll assist with harvesting any early morning blooms when in-season, like evening primrose. I also conduct quality control checks to ensure the herbs meet our brand's high standards. This involves inspecting the appearance, aroma, and taste of the herbs.

I then go back to my office, located in our farm's herb cabin, and spend time reviewing our long-term goals, assessing market trends, and strategizing brand building. I might spend time responding to customer inquiries, or interacting with our social media followers.

In addition to being CEO, I am also the CTB: Chief Tea Blender. I spend a lot of time experimenting with combinations of herbs to create unique, flavorful teas that resonate with our target market. I allocate time weekly for research and development, exploring new herbal ingredients, and experimenting with different brewing techniques.

I prefer to blend teas in the evening. Blending artisanal teas for our stellar customers is relaxing for me. I only blend when my energy is in alignment. I take some time to reflect on our farm's accomplishments, and on the wellbeing of our customers who deserve the best we have to offer. As one of few Black women-owned farms in this country, and also being underrepresented in the natural wellness and herbal tea spaces, I understand the significance of what I am doing and also that many others I encounter will not.

To wind down, I catch up with family and friends, cuddle with my pets, listen to some vinyl, occasionally watch a movie, get in my magic tub and enjoy a refreshing herbal drink and simply relax.

Tell us something surprising about you.

My name Clarenda is a blend of my father's name, Clarence, and my mother's name, Brenda. Rearranged, the letters of my name spell C-A-L-E-N-D-A-R. So while punctuality is not necessarily my strength, I know I am always on time. Ha!

What made you found Green Heffa Farms?

I have always been deeply passionate about environmental stewardship and animals… Later in life, I became passionate about holistic wellness, and social impact. My journey into this business was born out of a deeply personal and transformative experience.

The decision to start my own herbal tea brand and farm was motivated by a series of challenges. I went through a divorce, which meant that I was solely responsible for the Green Heffa Farms' brand. I also experienced considerable challenges as the only Black senior frontline global fundraiser at a high-paying job in a large environmental organization.

I found solace and healing in the power of nervine herbs, which played a significant role in helping me navigate the emotional turmoil. As I delved deeper into herbalism, I became increasingly aware of how much plant material in the industry is unethically grown. I was drawn to the idea of self-sourcing these healing ingredients directly from the earth, and sharing them with others who feel a connection by knowing their herb farmer.

Building my farm allowed me to not only cultivate the herbs that had supported me through difficult times, but to create a sustainable and regenerative business model aligned with my values. I wanted to build something that not only cared for the planet, but also empowered others to prioritize their holistic well-being.

My experience as a Black woman navigating various challenges in both personal and professional spheres also fueled my desire to create a business that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. I saw the natural wellness industry, more specifically, the herbal tea market, as an opportunity to carve a space where marginalized voices who have always been at the forefront of natural wellness are uplifted and acknowledged and where the principles of environmental and economic justice and social responsibility are at the forefront. I set out to create a brand that centers the wellbeing of customers who are often ignored. A Black woman's joy is the magic secret ingredient.

What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?

Leaving a high-paying position to run a sustainable farm requires substantial financial investment. I am a member of the least funded group of entrepreneurs. That exclusion is further compounded by being an entrepreneur in agriculture–an agripreneur… We have to level the planting fields by eliminating excuses, and being twice as good to get half as far. I have had to make sacrifices in my personal finances, even taking on additional debt at times… It's a very different experience than the reliable income than the former salaried positions I have held.

Being deeply committed to my business means that I often have to prioritize work over social engagements. I may miss out on gatherings with friends and family, or have limited time for personal relationships. My Saturdays are almost always spoken for during our 9-month growing season.

Successful agripreneurship requires stepping out of one's comfort zone. I have had to embrace uncertainty, take risks, be in rooms where I clearly stand out, and navigate challenges with resilience and determination. Sacrificing the safety of the familiar for the potential rewards of innovation and growth is a necessary part of the journey, but it does force you into some uncomfortable spaces at times.

What are the top five things that are always in your pockets?

Lip balm, cell phone, keys to at least one vehicle or tractor, herbs, and two types of fire.

What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field?

Because I exist at the intersection of a few fields – agricultural, natural wellness, food and beverage, herbal tea, and consumer packaged goods – my experience as "agripreneur" includes challenges and barriers faced by other women of color, such as systemic racism, and discrimination faced by women at large. But then as a Black woman, I have the unique additional challenge of the misogynoir that is embedded so deeply into our societal fabric. Support and solidarity is far too often not extended to Black women. And if you are a vocal Black woman, you will often be made to be the aggressor.

Then, there’s the added challenge that now that I am in my late 40s, I have to also start preparing for some ageism. Ironically, I’ve only dealt with ageism in the sense that the average age for farmers in this country is 58, so I have been called a “youngin'” a few times, which is hilarious. But hey, we are in a digital age that is full of public scrutiny. Having a social media presence is part of my business model. I do not wear a face of makeup to frolic in fields, or use all the fancy filters. I'm allowing my grays to grow in, appreciating the changes in my face and body. This world can be very critical of women as we evolve in the human experience.

How do you encourage other women to own their own farms?

By being a relatable, accessible example. I share my experience through social media, my free YouTube channel, public speaking, and teaching workshops… For me, it's not about encouraging them to do what I do. It's more about encouraging them to follow their passions – to realize their unique dreams. I call it a customized joy factory. I hope to encourage others to create that for themselves - a space where their joy is the number one ingredient and product.

If you could give your 20-year-old-self advice, what would it be?

Learn to curate the energy you surround yourself with now. Ensure your circle includes people that inspire you vs. those who aspire to be like you.

Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?

We recently added a guest tiny house to our herb farm for those who are interested in an on-farm immersion experience. Guests can learn about herbs, and how to incorporate them into your wellbeing program.Those interested in starting an herbal farming business can get hands-on experience on how to do it organically and regeneratively. And of course, they can just chill and enjoy the herbs and nature as well.

Discover Farmer Cee’s blends of teas on Instagram.

Dovetail Workwear Disclaimer: We are not the boss of our Women At Work! They say it their way and wear it their way.