Fridays on the Farm: Planting the Seeds of Change

This Friday meet Preston Clinkscales of PHC Farms in Anderson County, South Carolina. The small farm sprung up from an empty field in the small community of Whispering Pines, thanks to this young visionary. Preston transformed a neglected field he once used as a “cut-through” while walking to school into a pathway to helping others.

Preston started PHC Farms to support his community in Anderson County, South Carolina. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.
Preston started PHC Farms to support his community in Anderson County, South Carolina. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.

More than a Business

Preston recognized that school could be a way out of poverty and worked his way through South Carolina State University. While he’s an accountant by trade, he had his heart set on growing his community in other ways.
“I think farming chose me,” he said. “I 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 father-in-law at a local restaurant. It was there where they met Keith Alexander, a founding member of Axiom Farmers. This organization of black farmers and producers not only helps new and beginning farmers, but also provides support and networking for existing farmers. Axiom has partnered with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for several years. Preston shared his vision and Keith shared his knowledge.

PHC Farms grew from Preston’s desire to build more than just a business. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.
PHC Farms grew from Preston’s desire to build more than just a business. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.

“To engage in agriculture it’s a challenge,” Keith 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 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.”

Providing Access to Healthy Food

USDA’s Food Access Atlas classifies the Whispering Pines community as one lacking access to affordable and nutritious food, meaning residents can’t purchase healthy food within a short distance of their home. Preston is passionate about changing that.

He envisions this farm as more than just filling an immediate need, he views this as an opportunity to teach younger generations. He is currently pursuing a STEM and STEAM partnership with the local schools to use his farm as a teaching tool and as a tool to inspire others.

High tunnels protect plants from severe weather and allow farmers to extend their growing seasons. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.
High tunnels protect plants from severe weather and allow farmers to extend their growing seasons. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.

Preston reached out to his local NRCS for assistance to build a high tunnel on the land his family recently purchased. High tunnels are an increasingly popular conservation practice for farmers and financial assistance is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

High tunnels protect plants from severe weather and allow farmers to extend their growing seasons. Because high tunnels prevent direct rainfall from reaching plants, farmers can use precise tools to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to plants. High tunnels also help farmers control pests and can even protect plants from pollen and pesticide drift.

“To show the community that you can change is my mission,” Preston said. “We changed this overgrown field into a producing market farm—making money and building community.”

His efforts have already begun to bear fruit. Within a few short months of planting, he was able to bring more than 200 pounds to market and sell. A small fraction of what he hopes to produce next year, but it’s certainly a start.

Preston views this as an opportunity to teach younger generations. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.
Preston views this as an opportunity to teach younger generations. Photo by Michael Mascari, NRCS.

More Information
Each Friday visit local farms, ranches, forests, and resource areas through our Fridays on the Farm stories. Meet farmers, producers and landowners who are working to improve their operations with USDA programs.

USDA offers a variety of risk management, disaster assistance, loan, and conservation programs to help agricultural producers in the United States weather ups and downs in the market and recover from natural disasters as well as invest in improvements to their operations. Learn about additional programs.

For more information about USDA programs and services, contact your local USDA service center.


Michael Mascari is a public affairs specialist for NRCS in South Carolina.