Hemp farming is hard work. In fact, as Cee will tell you, it’s one of the hardest things you can decide to do. Cee is also a black woman in what she has found to be a space filled predominantly with white men. Some people might find that challenging enough, but not Cee. She has even bigger goals; to make her community and the world a better place through her hemp farm.
Green Heffa Farms
Clarenda Stanley, known by her friends as Cee, grew up experiencing both the joy and the hard work involved in farming. As a child she spent time on her grandparents’ farm in rural Alabama. “I enjoyed spending summers with them when I was younger because it was a break from the urban/suburban vibe,” she says. However, when she was in middle school and started living on the farm full time, she realized that farming wasn’t all fun. Instead, “What were once ‘little adventures’ became chores,” she says. By the time she graduated high school, Cee says she was determined to leave farming with its hard work and long hours, behind for good.
However, she never lost her appreciation for the land and today she is not only back on the farm, but she is running her own. Green Heffa Farms, Inc. is located in Liberty, North Carolina. Cee co-founded the company with another partner in 2018. She is now the sole operator. Green Heffa Farms grows boutique cultivars of hemp. Cee says, “I am growing hemp I myself would consume.”
In addition to selecting high-quality cultivars, Cee strives to grow these plants in a way that’s good for the environment. Environmental responsibility is important to her. In fact, it’s one of the reasons she decided to become a hemp farmer. She has spent a lot of time learning about organic and sustainable agriculture, and continues to work on making her farm more sustainable. For example, she says, “For my next year crop, we will incorporate practices such as crop rotation, crop diversification, and beneficial pests.” Green Heffa Farms hemp is grown organically, and Cee is in the process of getting it certified as such.
She also works to help make the planet a better place through her role as principal gifts officer with the Nature Conservancy (TNC). As a fundraiser for this a nonprofit conservation organization, she says, “I have the pleasure of working with some really fantastic, generous donors throughout the world who support TNC’s mission of protecting lands and waters on which all life depends.”
Cee is focused on much more than just hemp farming and environmental responsibility though. Green Heffa Farms is what she calls a social equity farm. She insists, “While making money is an objective, it is not the primary objective.” Instead, she explains that social responsibility is the most important part of her business. “Green Heffa Farms is built on four core principles: Economic Empowerment, Equity, Environment, and Education,” she says, also referred to as their 4Es ™Philosophy. According to Cee, “Everything we do has to tie back to our one or more of these principles.” Overall, she says, “My ultimate goal is to leave this world better than I found it—Green Heffa Farms is one of the key vehicles that this will be accomplished.”
One way that she’s carrying out her 4Es Philosophy is by helping other hemp farmers. Cee knows that hemp farming involves a steep learning curve. “Hemp farming is part horticulture, part agriculture, part agribusiness/entrepreneurship,” she says, and becoming a hemp farmer means learning all these things. Cee helps other farmers deal with this intimidating learning curve by sharing what she has already learned. For example, one of her goals for the next year is to launch a group for women who are interested in starting small, sustainable organic farms. Cee explains, “I hope to help . . . prevent [them] from making many expensive mistakes I made. My dad calls it ‘paying tuition.’”
Cee is also focused on increasing diversity and inclusion in hemp farming. She explains that there are very few black hemp farmers (and even less black women) in the United States. She states, “This country systemically has made it challenging . . . to be black farmers period. From predatory loans, to bad seeds, to zoning and tax laws to strip black people of their land, to economic inequities to an unfair justice system—America has continuously failed the black community and the black hemp farmer is no exception.” She is trying to change that by helping to educate and empower black farmers.
The Rewards of Hard Work
How does one person manage to work on all of these things? Cee admits that her chosen path is hard work. However, she says that it is very rewarding too. “To see the fruits of your labor literally grow before your eyes is a tremendously fulfilling experience,” she says. Not only that, but she is excited about the way that she is making a change in her community and in society at large. She says, “To know that I will one day provide jobs, expand training opportunities, and make even more significant philanthropic investments excites me and fuels me when times get challenging.”