Growing more than tomatoes: sc nrcs partners with visionary to plant the seeds of change for future generations

Carolina Conservation Times

Anderson County, SOUTH CAROLINA - A small farm sprung up from an empty field in a small community, thanks to a young visionary. Working with the South Carolina Natural Resources Conservation Service, Preston Clinkscales transformed a neglected field that was a "cut-through" he used to walk to school, into a pathway to helping others.
Preston, an accountant by trade, grew up in the Whispering Pine community in Anderson County.
He worked his way through school at South Carolina State University and recognized school could be a way out of poverty. He also had his heart set on something.
"I think farming chose me," Clinkscales said. "I long had a vision of standing over a field with some sort of crop. I wasn't entirely sure of what that crop might be, but I wanted to grow my community."
It was almost by fate that Preston was able to start on the path towards his life's mission. PHC Farms grew from Preston's desire to build more than just a business.
By happenstance, he met up with his future-in-law at a local restaurant. It was there where the met Keith Alexander, a founding member of Axiom Farmers. Axiom, an organization of black farmers and producers, is help new and beginning farmers and provide support and networking for existing farmers, has been working with NRCS for several years. Preston shared his vision and Keith shared his knowledge.
"To engage in agriculture it's a challenge," Alexander said. "If you are going to plant one tomato. It's not just the economics, it's growing something, learning appreciation for life. When you grow something, you can look at life a little bit different, once you have your heart in it, you appreciate it more. It changes how you treat each other. Taking care of something and how you treat extends to the way you treat others."
From there, PHC Farms was born.
PHC Farms stands for two things: his name Preston Heston Clinkscales, and its purpose; Plant-Harvest-Capitalize.
This Whispering Pines community is classified as a "food desert" by the USDA. The USDA defines a food desert as a community in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good-quality fresh food, and Preston is passionate about changing that.
Seeds of Change (CONT'D)
He envisions this farm as more than just filling an immediate need. He views this as an opportunity to teach younger generations. He is pursing a STEM/STEAM partnership with the local schools to use his farm as a teaching tool and as a tool to inspire others.
Still employed as an accountant, Preston contacted the NRCS and pursued assistance with building a high tunnel on the land his family recently purchased. The NRCS paid $12,000 of the cost and Preston was able to obtain almost $4,000 in grants to cover the rest.
His efforts have already begun to bear fruit. Within a few short months of planting, he was able to bring more than 200 lbs. to market and sell. A small fraction of what he hopes to produce next year, but it's certainly a start.
"To show the community that you can change is my mission. We changed this overgrown field into a producing market farm-making money and building community."

The NRCS can help you and your family achieve conservation goals in agriculture through technical and financial assistance through Farm Bill Programs. At NRCS, our mission is "Helping people help the land." We can help farmers/producers conserve, maintain, protect, and improve their natural resources. Contact NRCS to find out more.