North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble

Nakita Hemingway, Democratic Candidate for GA Agriculture Commissioner

September 29, 2021 Fannin Co. GA Democratic Party Season 1 Episode 21
North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble
Nakita Hemingway, Democratic Candidate for GA Agriculture Commissioner
Show Notes Transcript

The North GA Blue: Getting into Good Trouble podcast covers democratic politics in North GA, the 9th Congressional District, and across the state of Georgia. The podcast is in Q&A/Interview format with various democratic politicos including county chairs, democratic operatives, politicians, and more. It is our mission to deliver crucial information to our listeners in a timely manner as we fight for community values and principles in the 3rd most Conservative district in the state. Our website is: https://www.fcdpga.com/podcasts

Our guests highlight democratic activities and actions to work toward a Blue Georgia. The 9th Congressional District spans 20 counties across the region and covers a good deal of northern GA including Blue Ridge, Morganton, Fannin, Union, Banks, Athens/Clarke, Dawson, Elbert, Forsyth, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Hart, Jackson, Lumpkin, Madison, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, and White counties. 

Our democratic party podcast also disseminates information and interviews powerful Democrats across the state of GA who are working to overthrow the suppression tactics of the GOP and ensure democracy and our values, grassroots efforts, and goals remain intact. 

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Meral Clarke:

Welcome back to the North Georgia Blue Podcast produced and distributed by the Fannin County Democratic Party. I'm your host Meral Clarke and we're getting into some good trouble today with our special guest Nakita Hemingway, Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner of Georgia. Welcome to the show, Nakita. We're so happy to have you with us.

Nakita Hemingway:

Thank you. Definitely excited to be here. I love Fannin County and so many great things that are coming from that community.

Meral Clarke:

Thank you. I appreciate it. Well, let's let our listeners know a little bit about you and your background. Nakita is an entrepreneur, political leader, realtor and cut flower farmer. She wants to be Georgia's next commissioner of agriculture. This Georgia native is a married mother of four and resides in Dacula with her family where she farms and maintains a small real estate practice. She attended Georgia State University where she majored in real estate and also has a degree in finance from American Intercontinental University. As an active member in the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Federation of Democratic Women as well, Nakita is also a member of the Georgia Farm Bureau, Association of Specialty cut Flower Growers, Women in Agribusiness Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Trusts, National Association of Realtors, and we're not done she serves on the board of Open Arms Group, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the needs of women and children in underserved communities. Oh my you're a busy busy lady. In 2020, Nakita ran to represent Georgia House District 104 in the Georgia General Assembly, and was only 779 votes shy of unseating the three term Republican incumbent. Great job. She credits her expertise as realtor in recognizing the unique challenges farmers and landowners around the state face in protecting their land and with opportunities to expand their farming practices. Nakita also states that if she is elected, she has a plan to grow Georgia's economy, address issues around climate change, food insecurity and advocate for the full legalization of cannabis. While she cultivates the next generation of farmers. Oh my goodness, Nakita, where do you find the time? to do all? You are truly a renaissance woman. Yes, you are.

Nakita Hemingway:

Crazy. I hate listing all of the organizations that I'm a part of because on the surface, it sounds so superficial. And I just really want people to know me for who I am, which is Nakita. And in my passion for this space and my passion for community. But yes, I'm just so excited about our future and growing Georgia.

Meral Clarke:

Okay, fantastic. And as a farmer, yourself and this family farm, correct. It's a small family farm you're definitely vested in the agriculture department. So why you and why now? Why do you believe you are eminently qualified to be agriculture commissioner with the open seat, which granted is a tremendous opportunity for Democrats across the state and how has the Republican leadership failed to protect farmers and our citizens?

Nakita Hemingway:

So agriculture is the number one industry in our state. Generates more than 70 billion to our economy annually. There are over 359,000 jobs within this. However 80% of the food we consume in the state is imported. So what that says is that farmers all over the world are more profitable in the state of Georgia than Georgia farmers. And just starting from there and building out you can see that farming and agriculture has not reached its full potential. And there's so much more that we could do. The reality is, is that the Republican Party have had a trifecta for at least 12 years here in the state of Georgia, and our rural communities could not be more destitute, we still have issues around hunger, still have issues around poverty, lacking broadband access, hospitals, you name it, there are a gambit of issues that people in the state of Georgia are facing. And this is under their leadership. And what their mantra is, well, we're conservative, and we have family values, and we care about families. But I think the writing's on the wall to say they care about themselves. They don't care about families. And it's time that we start looking out for the people of Georgia making sure that the opportunities work for everyone equally across the board, making sure that our families are first and that opportunities, jobs and economic development starts here. So there's a lot of work, I'm passionate about this space. It's a part of my identity as a human being and as a Georgian. And it's time to change. And I have great ideas of how we can get to where we need to go.

Meral Clarke:

All right, terrific. And I can't wait to hear more about that. So you and your family as stated, you know, you've run a small family farm, you have a vested interest in the future of farming. So how do small farms like yours compete with large commercial farmers? And how is your experience shaped your current views? And how has the GOP his lack of leadership affected you and your family personally?

Nakita Hemingway:

So the real answer is, it's surprising because most people are gonna think, ah, it's crazy, but you don't. You don't compete with the large farmers, what you do is you create opportunities so that every farm has an opportunity to thrive and go. The resources and the market opportunities for small farms are not the same as the resources and the market opportunities that are needed for the larger, more corporate farms. So we've got to expand our particular smaller family farms, that includes making sure we have a farmers market in every county throughout the state of Georgia, which I am committed to. Making sure that we have a digital farmers market for the entire state of Georgia so that farmers can participate. Consumers not just in Georgia will all over have instant access to the goods that are produced here. And it's an easy system to them, again, making sure that our farmers have premium placement on the grocery store shelves and in convenience stores. The solutions to problems aren't hard. It's just hard when you don't know what you're doing. And it's hard when your focus has been on protecting the pockets of yourself and your allies and not looking out for everyone. There is a place for everyone in the state of Georgia. And that's what our department should strive to do, to create those opportunities so that every farmer and every producer in the state can be profitable.

Meral Clarke:

And that's not being done currently correct or hasn't been done?

Nakita Hemingway:

That is correct, right. Okay. And it's bigger than just the agriculture community, right? Because oftentimes, when we go to places like local farmers markets, you're seeing artisans, who may make their own jewelry, make crafts, so do artistry, different types of things, even make furniture, they exist in these spaces. So having vision and recognizing that it's just more than just farmers that are going to benefit from these opportunities. But micro enterprises, we can go a long, long way into making sure people have better futures. And farmers markets often serve as the hub of communities, the foundation of community, building stronger community, you know, having access to locally grown foods is very, very important as we're addressing issues currently around food insecurity, which is a growing problem in this nation. There's so many pivotal points in which one decision or one action can have a multitude of causes corrective actions and create a multitude of opportunities for all people in Georgia.

Meral Clarke:

Okay, that sounds very reasonable to me. And you touched on food insecurity, and we'll get into that within the podcast. But let me move on right now. How are farmers of color fairing under the current administration? And as a farmer of color, how would you help these people?

Nakita Hemingway:

So it's twofold. As we know farmers of color, not just black, but minorities of black and brown descent and also on small family owned farms, they have been systemically disenfranchised for centuries. Being a Georgia native, I've been fortunate enough to trace my ancestry back to the first slave that came here, her name was Seth, and fro there and my family became ric farmers and that agriculture i Right, the definition of insanity. And that's what we've very much a part of the Africa American story here in thi country. Currently, 5% of th farmers in the State of Georgi are of African American descent Land ownership in Africa American community is currentl at its lowest in all tim history. Ironically, it was th period of time shortly after th Civil War that was th wealthiest and saw the highes number of African America farmers within the State o Georgia and also in our nation' history. So how do we get here and the way that we got here i that we have systems that wer designed to disenfranchise an DC farmers of colors to creat opportunities where they failed they didn't have the resource that they need to succeed. An so for me, it's twofold becaus the challenges that exist i this space, it cannot b corrected by carving out ne programs to say we're just onl going to focus on this on group. Okay. And the reason I' saying that is because I ge that it's somewhat of a unpopular opinion. But one o the things that Reverand Warn ck was successful at doing as getting Farm Aid and money to African American farm rs satisfy. And then the bank ng institutions and farmers of white descent filed a c ass action lawsuit. And now t ose funds are being held up in the Supreme Court and they're b ing frozen, I'm not going t be distributed, they may be tie up for an indefinite perio of time. And ironically, the foundation for their argu ent is, the very definition of hat you're doing is discriminat on. Because you're not making ure that we get what we're due. And that's what the white far ers are saying that this is hat this fund does, by recogni ing the challenges that ave happened to African Amer can farmers and trying to fix t at. So two things have to ha pen here. One thing is, I beli ve, until we get to a point w ere our country formally apolog zes to the African Amer can community and make reparat ons for the wrongs that has een done. And reparations doe n't always have a mone ary attachment to it. Sometime it could be opportunities, but ake reparations for those that ave been harmed, we're never g ing to be able to move forward, not just the Departmen of Agriculture, but e ery leadership position in Geor ia, our government should be foc sed on unity, and making sure hat the system works justly for everyone. And that is what am committed to as b ing Commissioner of Agriculture, and it is in my heart, wh t I believe the best way to d in order to help African Amer can farmers and any farmer of c lor is to make sure that the sy tem work properly for everyone. hat is the only way we're goin to be able to push for it. T at is the only way we're not goi g to have these types of roadblo ks. Every time we get a win, we're 434 steps back, we can't eep doing the same things expecting differen been doing. And here we are hundreds of years later. And it just feels like at least for people of color. And within their communities. It feels like we take two steps forward and one step back. And that's just not acceptable, especially in Georgia. It's not and I get it, sometimes it may feel like the only way in which we can create justice is to create these carve out opportunities or programs to create new opportunities for others. But at some point, we do have to recognize that when you have 10, 20 or 30 of those by trying to recreate equity, you thereby create inequity. And o God didn't just make one race f people, right. And he didn t just say, Oh, this group f people are hurting, but th s one's not. We've got to look t this from the lens of in ord r for us to heal. In order for

Meral Clarke:

Yes, it's certainly not equitable at this s to move forward. We're a l people, and we've got to ma moment. So we have to keep striving to make that happen. So e sure that it works for al is the current Department of Agriculture regulating farmers in Georgia? Are they doing their inspections and doing what needs to be done? And if not, why aren't they? And what would you do about it?

Nakita Hemingway:

So that's a great question. And I'm gonna be honest with you, I don't have a full answer on that. Some will say that yes, department of agriculture is regulating Some will say department of agriculture is not even showing up. So it really depends on the space of agriculture you're in and who you are, and how that impacts your life. However, going forward, my perspective on regulations in the state of agriculture is that regulation should be designed to keep our environment safe, keep competition fair, and equitable, and make sure that the food that we're producing is quality, healthy food, and then beyond that, I don't see a need to regulate outside of that space. Often times, regulation has been used as a vehicle to disenfranchise people. And it's not race exclusive, so under my leadership, I definitely will be pushing for right size regulation. I think the message has been the perspective is wrong. Historically, the Department of Agriculture under GOP leadership has treated it as if it is competition within and the reality is, is our competition is external. We need to make sure that Georgia farmers from top to bottom doesn't matter what size they are, are profitable. Our competition is with California and with Asia and with South America, not with each other. And so when we make sure that our systems are functioning to make all Georgia farmers more profitable, I think the regulations and the approach to regulation should be right size to fit that.

Meral Clarke:

That makes complete sense to me. So circling back around to concerns about food security. Let's talk about food insecurity in Georgia. Approximately one in eight children in Georgia go hungry every day, which is just a travesty. What do you plan to do about it? And how will you fix it? And how does lack of access to adequate nutrition affect children's lives?

Nakita Hemingway:

So it is proven that children growing up in poverty with the lack of adequate nutrition are 10 times more likely to remain in poverty than children who actually have access to better foods. Currently, it is cheaper to buy a McDonald's meal than it is to feed a family of four, just one Exactly. It's ridiculous, it is horrible. The SNAP program which has served to fill in the gap for people who are below the poverty line pays out at an average of $1.86 per meal. And that is a little less than $1, than the national average for food. So what that says is, even with the efforts of the SNAP program, it's still not enough to sustain just a family on a monthly basis. So the way that we address food insecurity is really getting to the root of the problem and understand what it takes to change it. Oftentimes, those that be want to skew the conversation. Well, we don't have enough resources or is too many people in the world. But the reality is, is food insecurity is not a resource problem. It's a policy problem. And so ways in which we can address that would be number one, we start by making locally grown foods, organic foods more accessible to people. And you can accomplish that by as I see it, making sure we have at least one farmers market in every county, and also having a virtual farmer's market for the entire state of Georgia where people can get those foods. Other thing is if for those who get SNAP benefits, it's two for one at farmer's markets when they're buying their produce from local farms. So making sure that they have the knowledge and the wherewithal to take advantage of that program that's going to be key. And then also creating programs to educate the people of Georgia around gardening, I really believe that you should teach a man how to fish and not give him fish. And so creating gardening programs and making that education accessible wherever they are, and then supporting families as they're learning to grow their own foods is gonna be important. For me, I grew up in a single parent home, and was my mother and my siblings and I and there were times where things got really, really tough. There was a time in our life, my mom, we never owned a car, by the way in my youth and my mom came home, she stated she lost her rent money on the Marta bus. And so she made a deal with our landlord to give him every paycheck, she could, until she got caught up. And I didn't know it at that time. But she later explained to us that she fed the four of us off of $20 a month, for five months. And in all of that growing up in the south, having a mother who was a farmer, and never dawned on her to start a garden, even though she had the skill set. So it's very important that we have these conversations. It's very important that we create these resources and show not just the parents, but also teach the kids how to grow foods. I believe that is going to go a long, long way into addressing issues around food insecurity in the state.

Meral Clarke:

Absolutely. And I'm a huge fan of gardening so and growing food. So we all need to promote that level of sustainability. So speaking of food insecurity, how has COVID-19 affected food insecurity throughout the state? And as Commissioner of Agriculture, how do you plan to address this issue?

Nakita Hemingway:

So I think we all are feeling it. And I'm an obvious way some not so obvious ways. You know, you go to a grocery store and then you're seeing what once was an entire section of peppers. Now peppers are just a small section and the freezer section and then we go to restaurants and you're ordering certain items and they're saying okay, we don't have this, this and this and this because there are problems in our supply chain. And then also with pricing and in the quality of foods, you know, it was pre COVID you could take home a bag of veggies, and they last for about five days. Not long. And now post COVID if you don't eat it in 24 hours it's bad.

Meral Clarke:

Yes, it does seem to work that way. Which is I guess unsurprising considering the food supply chain issues, but disheartening,

Nakita Hemingway:

Yes. So here is my perspective. If we're importing 80% of our foods, and most of the world will shut down the same time we shut down. Where do you think the priority for the food is taking place? t's taking place in those coun ries where the food is being g own. They're taking care of heir citizens before they take care of ours. It is important f r us to produce as much of ou own food here in the US. I be ieve that international trade as a role in our food system. B t it should not be the predom nant role in our food system. Mo t of the food that we consume s ould be grown loc

Meral Clarke:

But it's not, as you pointed out, and certainly there are several rural areas where families don't have access to fresh produce. So I love your idea of farmers markets, we have one here and Fannin, it's highly successful. So yes, let's let's get that done across the state. I love that idea. So you had also touched on organic versus non organic farming and farmers. Can you tell us your position on that and what your thoughts are?

Nakita Hemingway:

Yes, you know, historically, the use of pesticides have been a way for farmers to secure more profitability and to guard against loss of crop due to pest issues. I do believe that we can look at how we approach pest management from a different lens, there have been major technological advancements, and the creation of herbicides, and also in finding new uses for things. For example, it's been recently discovered that chrysanthemums produce a certain type of chemical that is ideal as a pesticide control. And it's not harmful to our pollinators. It's not harmful to human beings. But it does create a level of protection for certain types of produce that is created. So we want to incentivize those in our locally grown communities, to be able to grow food as organically as possible. And one of the things I want to look at is how do we get more of the herbicides in the non toxic pest management practices in place and create more education around that so that farmers have those choices and have those resources in an efficient manner to where they can operate their farms and not be at a loss for revenue.

Meral Clarke:

Fantastic. And certainly the less pesticides, we can use less toxicity we have to deal with. So that's very important. We know that many farm laborers are people of color, and there are quite a few undocumented individuals that work on groups. How would you help them navigate the current system? We have now of farmers threatening to call ICE or report them if they don't do exactly what they say? Is it just another version of involuntary servitude? What are your thoughts on that?

Nakita Hemingway:

So that's the subject matter I'm still working through. And when you're talking about immigration, in farming, we've definitely got to make visas more accessible and more obtainable for migrant workers to be here legally. And for these farmers to not have to worry about their labor source. It's very important in terms of keeping costs down, that farm operations are able to employ migrant workers and not have to worry about ICE showing up at their farms, which is a threat to our food system. But then when you're talking about US citizens, which is very important, because it's a different conversation we have here in Georgia, where a good number of our farm workers are US citizens, it is very important that we allow them to form unions, because hearing how much people make after spending 8-12 hours of picking tomatoes and blueberries is devastating. And oftentimes, these are hurting people in the rural communities who have a traditional nine to five job, but because they're making less than $15 an hour, they're having to take up working as farm workers as a supplement to that income. And so it's multifaceted. We definitely have to look at raising minimum wage, so that we don't have people who are working 40 hours a week living below the poverty line. And we most certainly have to create opportunities for farm workers to be able to unionize so that they can have adequate representation and fight for just pay and just benefits.

Meral Clarke:

And of course, they're not allowed to unionize under the current rules, correct? Right. That is correct. All right. So that is something we definitely need to change. Recently. I think it's been a couple of years now actually, I've lost track of time, but we had a plant explosion in Gainesville, Georgia, which is part of the ninth district that we're in six people were killed. There are definitely issues with poultry and beef plants across the state. What would you do to make those workers safe within those plants?

Nakita Hemingway:

So first thing is we need to have a better system for inspections and how those restrictions are handled and how they are recorded. We need to have protections for whistleblowers. We need to do better job about that, so that it doesn't get back to the plant owners and the plant managers who is reporting these and also being more efficient and creating better policies around regulating these facilities, making it easier for worker safety to be addressed. And that goes back to allowing farm workers to unionize, you know, because often times the conditions in which they're working on they're unrealistic, and they don't have representation to support them. And they sign these agreements or they take on these jobs, because those are the only opportunities in their communities. So it's not just one thing. It's multiple things that it needs to be done to ensure safer working environments for Georgia farm workers.

Meral Clarke:

Okay, fair enough. And that makes sense. So drilling down to actual individuals, and how the people of Georgia are affected by the Department of Agriculture, I was surprised to learn that the Department of Agriculture oversees vets and pets, you know, small pets, domestic animals, puppy mills, etc, etc. and there hasn't been a whole lot done currently to protect vets and pets and individuals. So how would you regulate or dissolve puppy mills across the state? And what would you change?

Nakita Hemingway:

So my staff and I are researching a few methods we've looked at in several states that have been very aggressive about pet protection, I don't have an answer for that, it's very tricky, because with the Department of Agriculture, it is an executive role. And we do have the power to regulate what has been assigned under us. However, there is a key component of that in which Georgia legislation plays a role in ensuring the safety and the sanctity of these puppy mills and these vet operations. So a lot of that has to do with coming up with a vision for how this division of Department of Agriculture should look like when we're considering our fur babies, and our farm animals, and lobbying legislators to make sure that we have the right types of regulations or the right types of laws that are established, so that the Department of Agriculture can be more effective in regulating in the space and keeping those that we love safe and healthy.

Meral Clarke:

Yes. And thank you for that. Being a fur baby mom, myself, it's very important to me, and I'm sure quite a few of our listeners.

Nakita Hemingway:

Yes, listen, I'm just going to tell you, I am still grieving the loss of my cat. She died a little over a year ago, and about a week ago, I just had this unique dream, and she was right there and I just balled But it's hard because they are very much a part of our families. And you know, I'm not overtly religious. But I love God. And I believe that everything we should do everything that we're taught about loving each other, taking care of the meek amongst us, he holds us accountable. To the end, you can't say that you're pro life, you can't say that you care about people and not care about the animals too. So this exact This is very important,

Meral Clarke:

Right. And I completely agree with you. And you also can't say you're pro life if you only care about an embryo, or a fetus and not an actual live person walking here. So yes, 100% you're spot on. So you also believe in fully legalizing cannabis and hemp? Yeah, yeah. In the state of Georgia. Why is this critical? And why is it necessary?

Nakita Hemingway:

Well, it's multifaceted. So cannabis has more than 25,000 uses. And historically, when we think about cannabis, we're thinking about marijuana, and all of the negative connotations that attach to that we think about prohibition of marijuana and why the government felt that it was necessary to create a schedule one control of this substance.

Meral Clarke:

And we know those roots are racist in nature.

Nakita Hemingway:

Exactly. They are not created for the reasons in which we were told, right? Correct. Correct. So when we start looking at cannabis, and we're saying, okay, we're gonna allow the cultivation of this because of all the medicinal uses, let's not abandon what it takes to cultivate that plant what it takes to get it to that medicinal use, but also all of the great things that cannabis does. You know, a misnomer is people think that cannabis is something like tobacco or maybe it could be a grain but it's a vegetable Oh, and it's a superfood. I didn't know that Yes. And so now you're understanding a little differently. But when we're talking about pest management, right, there are certain types of plants that can be cultivated to sequester toxins out of both the soil and the air. So one acre cannabis can remove 4.2 tons of carbon from the environment every year, and two put that in perspective, an acre of trees can remove 6.5 tons of carbon from the environment every 10 years. So it takes cannabis only four months to reach full cultivation from C to a triplet. And then it has a restorative properties where it can remove heavy metals, toxins. It can remove nuclear chemicals and also pesticides from the soil and regenerate the soil. And then cannabis has. One of the other components I love is that we can harvest the entire plant. And there is a product called hempcrete. And which cannabis is used to make a concrete substitute, which can be impactful in the building industry. So this plant is very versatile and there's so many uses. As a farmer, regardless of the crop you grow. Regardless of how long you've been in the space, it takes about three or four years to truly perfect the practice of farming a new product with a setting THC levels at point 3%. If farmers exceed that level, they're forced to burn their entire fields. It takes a farmer $500 just to plant an acre of cannabis. So farmers will see several years of loss before they're actually profitable. By us fully legalizing cannabis, when these farmers exceed these levels, they now can use their crop for alternative uses. So they're not at a loss. So making sure that we look at how we approach Department of Agriculture, a regulation is not about what we think it's about which is controlling what we believe to be a drug substance. It is very much about how can we get the most out of this one thing? How can we create the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people, and that's where my heart and passion lies around this product and for the state of Georgia. And here's another little known fact, farmers who are in states where they are cultivating cannabis for THC use only those farmers the profitable ones are making between 90 and 140,000 an acre. And then farmers where it's fully legalized in states like Oregon, California, Colorado, those farmers are seeing up to a million dollars an acre. So there's so much more. I mean, that goes a long way to building our rural economies generating more revenue for the state of Georgia. I mean, there's just so many more things we can accomplish in this space simply by stating You know what, let's just go ahead and legalize cannabis.

Meral Clarke:

And let's talk about hemp, too. And all the different uses that hemp has. And certainly we know that medicinal cannabis is incredibly helpful for various patients with chronic conditions, autoimmune disorders, etc. So what are your thoughts on hemp farming in Georgia?

Nakita Hemingway:

So hemp is a form of cannabis. So that's why I mentioned cannabis because there are multiple strains. And hemp is just one strand. But when you look at all of the strains, there are so many things that you can do. There are some problems right now some major problems in the State of Georgia that needs to be worked out. But once we can solve those issues, I believe hemp is going to be a major player in growing Georgia's economy. We are uniquely positioned. We have Savannah ports. So we are uniquely positioned that we can be a leader in this space.

Meral Clarke:

And we should be yes. Because it helps everyone it does. Yes, it does. So agriculture accounts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. We know climate change is real, at least Democrats do. How do you see Georgia playing a role in addressing the greenhouse gas emissions issue? And what are your top environmental concerns other than climate change? coal ash freshwater, if you could elaborate on that, of course, climate change is a big one. And we're not addressing it now.

Nakita Hemingway:

Yeah, so definitely all of those coal ash climate change our water systems, and we can do that there are a number of ways we can do that. Number one, it goes back to how do we we start investing in crops that does sequestering pulls these toxins out of the environment and also our soil. Let's expand in those spaces. But also let's look at our trade agreements. Right so I'm a cut flower farmer, and the cut flower industry is a $6 billion industry globally. United States is the number one consumer of cut flowers. We spend annually about $175 billion in cut flowers. However 85% of the cut flowers that we consume in this country is imported. In the 90s the US government created what was called the AFTA trade agreement, which is the Andes Fair Trade Agreement. And it was an approach to making progress in their war on drugs where they convinced cocaine farmers in like in Colombia and Ecuador to turn those farms in to cut flower farms. And so ultimately what happened is the cut flower farming industry in 19 states essentially dried up many farms went out of business. And a product of that is you have limited diversity in the type of flowers that we have in the store. So that's why every arrangement you're getting it consists of roses, carnations, sun flowers, you know, just a small gamut of flowers. But what's even more of a big challenge is the environmental footprint that is associated with our trade agreements. In 2019, on Valentine's Day, which is only one day out of the year, US imported 166 million blooms. Now of that, what I can tell you is that 44% of the flowers that are shipped, never is sold in a store, because of pest issues, because plants die. I mean, it's just waste. But those 166 blooms, getting those here to United States for one day, is the equivalent of 70,000 cars on the road for an entire year. So when we talk about climate change, when we talking about cleaning up all the pollutants and toxins in our environment, we must first start with our trade agreements, you know, not only do they create more opportunities for locally grown products to thrive, but they also reduce the impacts of carbon emissions and our greenhouse gases. So that's very important there. And then there is a new area of farming that starting to take form, and that is carbon farming, where these farmers are essentially selling carbon credits to corporations to offset their carbon footprint. And these farmers, that's how they generate their revenue by investing in growing crop that is pulling the carbon out of the environment and is placing it back into the soil. So it's not one thing,

Meral Clarke:

Right? It's a multitude.

Nakita Hemingway:

It's a lot of little things. But I think that's the beauty of having a vision for the Department of Agriculture and understanding that we can't operate with a limited perspective. We have to, you know, lift every rock and find every opportunity to bring about the change that we need our environment needs. Our family needs our economy,

Meral Clarke:

I would love to see that happen, Nakita. So I feel like we've learned quite a bit, you know, over this hour, and you're spot on with all of your stats and everything else. Thank you. So finally, tell us a fun fact about yourself. Something that has nothing to do with farming or your campaign. Tell us a fun fact about you that our listeners might be interested in learning.

Nakita Hemingway:

Oh, gosh, that's a hard one. Okay, I have I figured it out. So I have about 15 different hobbies.

Meral Clarke:

You're not busy enough?

Nakita Hemingway:

Yes, these are legitimate. So let me call them out. So I'd love crocheting or learning how to quilt even though I don't have much time as I like to I make soap that was one of my earlier hobbies. I make jewelry, I can do that. I play poker. I love photography. And I'm just a curious person, to be honest with you. I love taking time and appreciating the good that God has given us this life that God has given us and spending time with family. And oftentimes my brain will go into spaces of what if you know so? I love going into the history books and learning new things or trying to solve mysteries. I still haven't figured out who killed JFK but

Meral Clarke:

or who is responsible for ordering it. Sure.

Nakita Hemingway:

Exactly. Yeah. So that's me in a nutshell. And more importantly, oh, I'm an introvert

Meral Clarke:

Really? Are you sure?

Nakita Hemingway:

I love my personal space. But I love, love, love people. And that's what's pulled me out of my comfort zone to get out here and work because I think in order to serve the people, you really have got to love people. And you got to understand that we have an opportunity to change lives when we put people first and that's what we all should strive.

Meral Clarke:

Oh, that's wonderful. That is wonderful. Makita Well, thank you for joining us today and sharing more about your critical work across agriculture and various other crucial things to maintain our democracy. I'm Meral Clarke and on behalf of our team, I'd like to thank everyone for listening to the North Georgia Blue Podcast. We hope you'll listen next time when our special guests will be Devin Pandy, Democratic candidate for mayor of Gainesville, Georgia. To learn more about the Fannin County Democrats and the work we're doing visit us online at FanninCountyGeorgiaDemocrats.com. Share the North Georgia Blue Podcast with your friends and family and be sure to subscribe and follow and Nakita if any of our listeners want to get involved with your campaign, where can we send them?

Nakita Hemingway:

So my website is NakitaHemingway.com I'm al o on Twitter, Instagram and Fa ebook. And I hit the name lo tery. So if you just Google Na ita Hemingway, I am the only on in the world you'll find.

Meral Clarke:

Fantastic. I'm the only MeralClarke in the world. Welcome to the club is at least as far as I can tell. So if you enjoy our podcast, be sure to become a founding patron and friend of the show at NorthGeorgiaBluePodcast.com/patron so we can continue getting into more good trouble.