Nisani Farm celebrates the legacy of Belizean women farmers, a history that Ann Codrington continues on her farm in central Virginia. The name of her farm embodies that history -- "nisani" means "our daughter" in the Garifuna language of Belize. Ann and her family grow fresh vegetables year-round, in unheated high tunnels that help them produce less common crops like ginger and turmeric. Ann joined the CNG community in 2017, and she recently shared her story with us--read our interview with her below!
Where do you farm?
Nisani Farm is in Phenix, Virginia
Do you identify as a black farmer?
Yes. My family is from Belize and there is a lot of Caribbean influence in what we grow.
For how many years have you been farming?
We formed an LLC in 2016.
How did you first get into farming?
My first official agricultural experience was as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, where I helped local schools set up gardens, orchards, and chicken coops. But I have always loved growing plants, even as a child in urban Los Angeles. I was just learning to read when I found an advertisement for 25 cent flower seeds in a copy of Reader’s Digest. After begging my mother for the quarter, I planted the seeds in the sandy LA soil, and I was hooked.
Please tell us about any farming heroes or mentors of yours.
Ira Wallace, who was first an inspiration to me as the only Black farmer I had seen featured in Mother Earth News magazine (back before I was farming, in the late 90s and early 2000s). She has since become a great mentor and friend. When I expressed interest in selling ginger and turmeric plants through Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalogue, Ira suggested that I first gauge interest by selling them at the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival. I sold out of plants that day, and Ira started finding other opportunities for me to speak at festivals and conferences about growing ginger and turmeric. Throughout the struggles, setbacks and successes of starting a farm, Ira has been a great resource.
Ann inspected Dendi Ranch in 2019 for their annual CNG inspection. Here she is (center) with Diane and Dennis Mummert, owners of Dendi Ranch.
What does it mean for you to work on the land?
It means so much to me. It has been a spiritual relationship for me for many years. I see God in the beauty, the awesomeness, and the power of growth that is both dependent on my actions and independent at the same time. I love being able to sow a seed in good soil and watch what it can become. The power of a tiny seed is immense. It can grow to an amazing size and can sustain life if given the proper soil and water. Because I have been a gardener for as long as I remember, farming made sense and it wasn’t a surprise for my family when I decided to become a full-time farmer after leaving my career at the EPA in Washington. I am finally doing what I was meant to do.
How did you come to have a commitment to sustainability?
Sustainable living was something I learned about in high school and college. My high school was founded to promote experiential education and I was lucky to have attended at a time when the school invested in a system to compost cafeteria waste. Every student had to help out in the kitchen and this work included composting. Also, as a Peace Corps Volunteer, we learned the value of composting, organic matter, and natural pest control and worked to share this knowledge in our host communities.
The logo for Nisani Farm was illustrated by Ann's mother and daughter, and features the ginger and turmeric plants that they grow.