There are ways white and non-Black POC members of the horticulture field can show their support when it comes to diversifying green spaces. One of the ways they can do this is by supporting and buying from Black business owners. Gain new insight and a fresh perspective from Jasmine Jefferson, the creator and founder of Black Girls With Gardens (BGWG), an inclusive online platform for Black women gardeners, business owners and fellow plant mamas.
Jefferson, who is a Pensacola, Florida, native, says her family had always gardened in some form, but she initially shied away from it because it seemed daunting. However, that changed in 2013 after the loss of her grandmother.
“My real inspiration, where it really started, is when my last grandmother passed away. I was left with her flowers and I started taking care of them,” Jefferson says. “And from there, I just got obsessed with growing herbs, and then that's when I just really started getting into gardening.”
She created BGWG in July of 2017, and her goal was to reach out and connect to other Black women who garden. Per her site, BGWG, is a “digital resource for women of color to find support, inspiration, education, and representation in gardening.” Soon after she started its first social media channel, Jefferson noticed that there were many people out there who wanted to know more about gardening, and who were just as interested in plants as she was. Currently, her Instagram platform has 121,000 followers and her Facebook page has nearly 6,500 likes.
“It was just roughly a week after I started the platform when I realized I had to change the whole mission, that there was a need for a community base — a virtual community base — in reference to gardening. So, that's been my mission ever since then,” she says.
Developing a community hub
Jefferson runs the entire platform by herself, which is no small feat, considering she works full-time as a therapist and spends nearly 40 hours (or more) per week on the site. In the future, she hopes to have a team to help her assist with the site’s management. As for now, running the platform is a huge learning curve, she says.
“Like I said, my platform is community-based, so I can ask a lot of questions of my followers, like ‘What do you need? What do you need to learn more about?’ I like to dive in and do the research in reference to what they like and what they need.”
Her platform is part community meeting ground, part shop. She sells items like T-shirts, hats, mugs and bags from its direct-to-print shop. She takes special requests from people who express interest in memes or quotes from across the internet.
“I would say 99% of the items I have were requested. It's like, ‘Hey, can we have that on a shirt?’ And I just provide.”
Her website features blog posts and topics like gardening basics, container gardening, houseplants, tips to start a garden and more. She also has a dedicated “Plant Mama” feature, where community members can send in their information and photos to be featured on the site. Jefferson says it’s open to anyone who wants to be featured.
Connecting and encouraging Black gardeners
Her advice for others who want to break into the field is to do their research and hit the ground running.
“Whatever your interest is, do your research and reach out to other individuals that are in the field or doing exactly what you want to do more of,” she says. “That's my No. 1 advice I give almost every day, is research and reach out. Find a mentor. Find someone that's willing to just teach you and let you know.”
Researching for resources is a top priority, and Jefferson reaches out to owners of urban farms or gardens, particularly in areas where one wouldn’t expect to see a community garden. She says asking them what questions they receive is helpful when it comes to informing and teaching fellow BGWG community members.
When it comes to keeping the BGWG community in the loop, she shares information through a variety of channels. She strategically uses social media for different avenues of interaction.
“On Facebook, I have two Facebook groups in reference to houseplants and urban gardening or just edible gardening. A lot of individuals enjoy that type of community because they're able to ask questions and get a lot of feedback there,” she says. “In reference to Instagram, there's a lot of individuals who like to look at the pictures and just ask questions that way. I've tried to communicate often via email in those Facebook groups, on Pinterest."
Jefferson notes that she has about 200 direct messages on Instagram and tries to reply to every single one, encouraging them with their plant endeavors. She says that if there’s a certain way someone prefers to communicate, she’ll do her best to accommodate them to help them succeed.
While her mission is successful, Jefferson says that because her platform is so unique, it’s challenging to make sure BGWG is headed in the direction it needs go.
“I don't really have too many other businesses that I can model my business after in reference to gardening. I'm referred to as a media resource, but I can't name anything off the back of my hand that I could just basically model my business and provide this way,” Jefferson says. “Every day, I'm just trying to make sure that I provide, and I stay true to my mission. That's my hardest challenge.”
Supporting Black-owned businesses and IGCs
Jefferson recommends that everyone check out Seed Mail Company, which was founded by Stefane Hicks. Hicks also runs a houseplant account called @mint2monstera, and an edible garden account called @mint2grow. Another popular Instagram account Jefferson recommends is @taminthegarden, which was created by Tamara Elmore. She also suggests EasyLiving with B and Aina & Co., both of which she praises as exceptionally informative resources. You can follow them on Instagram here and here.
To shop on Jefferson’s sites and find more Black businesses to support, visit the link here. You can also follow Jefferson’s BGWG Instagram account, where she regularly posts shoutouts and follow recommendations to other Black members and business owners of the horticulture community. Here are a few other Instagram accounts (there are much, much more if you head to her page) Jefferson that encourages her followers to check out:
Below, here are a few Black-owned IGCs you can support as well:
- Lighthouse Garden Center in Miami, Florida
- Seasons in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, New York
- Natty Garden in Brooklyn, New York
- Ecovibe in Portland, Oregon
- The Zen Succulent, which has two locations (Durham and Raleigh) in North Carolina
- Grounded, which is headquartered in Washington D.C.
Gardening to reduce stress
Jefferson says there has been a noticeable spike of gardening interest ever since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., and many people are attempting to learn the basics of planting a victory gardening. For new gardeners, she advises them to allow gardening to be the therapy that they need. She urges them to plant something — anything — regardless of what it is.
“Don't worry too much about will it grow, or is it the right season, or whatever the case may be. Just get out there. Try it. Allow gardening to be that therapy, that peace, that calm. Whatever exactly that you need, allow gardening to do that. But just start,” she says.
In the future, Jefferson hopes to provide annual workshops and summits for the BGWG community.
“I definitely want to branch out to installing community gardens in different areas of the United States. There are so many different things that I want to implement in reference to this platform,” she says.