On Friday, June 14, Local Food Hub said a fond farewell to our Grower Outreach and Diverity Coordinator, Brii Stevenson. Brii is moving on to an exciting opportunity to coordinate and support urban agriculture on a national level. Before she left, she shared the below article about one of our Directory partners, MysticPine.
On Juneteenth 2023 I sat in a mid-Atlantic Black Farmer Caucus meeting. There, Stephanie Miller and many other black farmers gathered to organize farmer efforts to bring sovereignty to our people. Stephanie and I have sat in many other rooms together and there was no denying her passion and presence in all of them. Outspoken and determined, she’s expressed how important it is to break down barriers and be in rooms that lack representation. She is committed to opening doors for those after her while honoring those who came before her.
I had seen Stephanie maneuver many spaces effortlessly but the Caucus meeting felt like a special place for her, where her dedication to building space for her community was clear. I am always inspired by black women who push forward despite their lives being full of adversities, and I became eager to learn and write about Stephanie and her journey. Upon telling her that, she welcomed me to her farm with open arms.
Stephanie’s family helped establish a Black Freedman’s Town over 100 years ago in Campbell County, Virginia. There, her great great-grandmother was an amazing woman who served as a root healer and sharecropper in the community. Her grandfather eventually moved north in the great migration and Stephanie was raised in Philadelphia. Under the reality of gun violence and crime, she decided to keep the tradition of making the passage back to her roots. She purchased a little over 5 acres in Campbell County surrounded by family, just minutes from the Century Farm where her family settled decades ago.
Stephanie attended the University of the Virgin Islands, where some of her family lives. She spoke about how comfortable and freeing it was to be in an environment where discrimination and racism didn’t exist. After college, she began her culinary career where she worked her way through the ranks learning how to make exquisite food in incredible places. Stephanie soon found herself motivated to heal her community through cooking and food. She saw and felt the large disconnect between food and nourishing ourselves. Stephanie realized that most hereditary diseases don’t run in the family but are passed down through habit. She began developing products that taught her community how to love and nourish themselves and grow food that did the same.
Stephanie started crafting a self-care line of products she calls “Holistic Sacred-Care” – artisan quality offerings of herbal-infused soaps, salves, hand-blended teas, seasonings, and more. She is intentional about minimizing waste and environmental impact when making, packaging, and distributing products, utilizing compostable or reusable packaging and reducing shipping and emissions. Her main goal is to create awareness around intentionality and self-care by infusing culture and ritualism into her products. Creating products that are high in medicinal benefits and healing energy, her vision is to pull the community back to nature.
MysticPine Farm is Stephanie’s version of passing down wealth, wellness, and prosperity to her family and community. She began her farming journey in Philadelphia, where she utilized city and urban spaces to grow. Now at MysticPine, she continues her mission of providing access to fresh, local, and culturally appropriate vegetables and traditional herbal remedies. Stephanie grows her food with all organic practices and intentionally as possible. She uses hugelkultur beds, indigenous, regenerative, and African growing principles. Her land is blooming with perennial flowers and Stephanie plans to plant more for the pollinators and cut flowers. She also raises heritage breed chickens for eggs and naturally grows heirloom produce, herbs, and forest-farmed mushrooms.
As Stephanie looks to the future, she plans to continue her farm stand – the only farm stand in 50 miles that takes EBT. She also plans to give away food at those stands through a grant she worked very hard to receive. On MysticPine Farm, her goal is to create a safe space for people to unplug and find peace and mental stability. Stephanie’s farm and land bring her tranquility and she plans to share that with people. Stephanie envisions MysticStays to eventually be an entire retreat space with cabins, outdoor bathing, solar-powered bioelectricity, and delicious farm-to-table meals. She also envisions holding large events such as Eve’s Harvest Festival, to bring together amazing black women to heal, grow, share resources, and network. She also plans to continue to feed her community and even hold classes to teach folks how to feed themselves.
As Stephanie showed me around her farm, welcomed me into her apothecary, laid out the vision for her retreat area, and even prepared hand made fancy coffee for me, I realized heroes do exist. Thank you Stephanie for sharing space with me.
As my time here at Local Food Hub comes to an end, I enter my next stage in full gratitude. I feel l’ve been given a platform to manifest what I truly believe a change in a local food system looks like, and I have been given the opportunity to care for these farmers in ways I believe the system does not. I hope the Virginia Black Farmer Directory will continue to shine the light on farmers like Stephanie who brave systematic adversity just to feed and nurture the community.
~ Briana Stevenson