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FarmASis Is About Fellowship, Farming

Growing Together

FarmASis Is About Fellowship, Farming

Story and photos by Eva Moore

This story appears in the August 6, 2020 issue of the South Carolina Market Bulletin.

“We truly enjoy what we’re growing,” says Bonita Clemons. “We know it tastes different.”

She’s sitting in a folding chair in a building on the grounds of Clemson University’s Sandhill Research and Education Center. A steady rain is falling outside the roll-up door, but it’s dry and cheerful inside, folding chairs pulled into a circle where the 10 women who make up FarmASis have gathered this morning.

“We have three goals,” Clemons says by way of introducing the group. “No. 1, to work collectively as black women – being a model to show everyone that women can work together. No. 2 is health and wellness and intentionally getting back to nature. And No. 3 is economic growth.”

Clemons formed the group in 2016. For the first several years, they met at members’ houses to garden, then worked some plots owned by Richland County, finally securing a plot in the Sandhill REC incubator program, which offers space for startup farmers to grow their agribusinesses.

For all these women, farming is a side gig – which is why they’ve gathered at 7 this morning to get some work done.

Clemons stays busy. Her nonprofit organization Dianne’s Call works on issues of community health and nutrition. She also works with Axiom Farms Cooperative, a food hub based in the economically depressed 29203 zip code; Axiom was one of the distributors chosen to participate in SCDA’s recent Farmers to Food Banks effort. The co-op also operates Rare Variety Café, a vegan restaurant on North Main Street in Columbia. Additionally, Clemons makes and markets her own line of hibiscus tea.

With FarmASis, she wanted to share the farming knowledge she’d been working to acquire, and to grow together with a group of like-minded women.

Thomasena Hoefer-Laudmon is the group’s president, though the group is “a very collective effort,” Hoefer-Laudmon says. She’s enjoyed the chance to share her experience.

“I gardened all my life,” Hoefer-Laudmon says. “As a child I grew up with my mom in the garden.”

As the rain lets up, the FarmASis members grab tools and bags and head out to the rows to harvest. The Sandhill REC is certified organic. They pick okra, tomatoes, kale, squash, round yellow cucumbers, squash and other summer vegetables.

For now, FarmASis grows food for their families, with what remains going to Axiom Farms.

“We have had a lot of discussion about other markets, but we’ve decided we’re not going to go to that level,” Clemons explains.

“We’ve grown food together and we’ve grown together as women and as sisters,” Clemons says. “We’ve realized some of our missions and passion by working together and learning to trust each other.”


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