To North Carolina natives Brielle and Michelle Wright, the land takes on an almost familial relationship. It’s something that has been with their family for so long that it has become a part of them. To understand their relationship to the land is to understand everything that they’re doing with their organization, the Farmer’s B.A.G.
At face value, the Farmer’s B.A.G., which stands for Black Abundant and Gifted, is a small-town organization that works to bring the agriculture industry to residents of their community. But, the organization itself has a much stronger purpose.
The Farmer’s B.A.G. is a community outreach program that focuses on assisting older farmers, educating young people about the agriculture industry and addressing food insecurity. The programs are conducted on the 11-acre property passed down to them by their late great-grandfather. It is outfitted with several gardens and beehives, with more room to grow. The sisters make regular appearances at local farmers’ markets to sell jams and jellies made with their homegrown fruit to fund their developing programs too.
The project was born during the quarantine period of 2020 when Brielle, an employee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and her sister Michelle, who has a background in psychology and public health, realized that there was a use for their skill sets that could bring about positive change in their community.
While their medium is agriculture, their focus is really on healing and meeting the needs of their community. On a call with Garden & Health, Michelle described their mission, saying, “it’s about bringing people together so that we can focus on the trauma that’s actually associated with the land – you see this in communities of color, where there are bad memories and shared experiences when it comes to sharecropping.“ She adds, “the conversation that we’re having is about agriculture, but it’s also about the community. It’s about building generational wealth but it’s also about healing because we want families to be healthy and thriving.”
In providing outreach to their community, the Wright sisters also want to use their organization to promote diversity in the agriculture industry. With Brielle and Michelle being black women, two segments of the agriculture industry that are severely underrepresented, they see it as their duty to speak up. Brielle touched on this underrepresentation she’s experienced in an article she wrote for the USDA, saying, “I think many people perceive Black farmers as being nonexistent. But there’s a shift that’s happening. Black and Brown people understand that the land provides when you work it. It can provide a living. It can provide a fresh perspective.“
Earlier this year, their organization was recognized on the Kelly Clarkson Show. They received a $10,000 donation from agricultural equipment company, Bobcat, to support their growing organization. When asked how they would use the money, they replied, “our first priority was to give. We know how much of a struggle it is to be new in this industry, so we wanted to give $1,000 to two individual female Black farmers. This will help them get certifications and licenses that they need to start their businesses.”
Still, their focus on enriching the community and bringing diversity into the world of agriculture is really a product of their upbringing. Both sides of their family are very involved in farming. Part of the beauty of this organization is to see how they honor the people who instilled the farming passion in them and fostered the love for their community. They honor the legacy of their great-grandmother, now 103, who taught them how to plant seeds and tend to the animals. They also honor the legacy of their great-grandfather, a landowner from Elizabethtown, NC, who sold a majority of his land to other African-American families before he passed, as a way to enrich and develop their community. Michelle said that “our family has always been a community of givers, and I think wanting to be able to replicate that is a really powerful motivation for us.”
In talking with Brielle and Michelle about their visions for this growing organization, they frequently used the word “legacy.” When I asked them about it, they described a broad vision that encompasses not their local community, but a community of farmers working to overcome generational economic struggles. They want to build “a community that is sustainable and thriving,” that allows businesses to “pop up and thrive,” and allows them to “to increase diversity within the field of agriculture.”
When I asked them where they are operating right now they said ‘North Carolina, today,“ but eventually it seems they have their sights set on something much bigger.