Indy Officinalis is proven to be one with nature and a land savant. From her childhood on a homestead in North Carolina to running a successful mushroom farm and community garden in downtown Los Angeles, Indy brings a wealth of knowledge and a deep connection to the land. As an architecture, forging, and farming student for years, she’s now on a mission to help others cultivate a similar knowledge and passion for the craft. “Farm Dreams” is a six-part Nat Geo Wild and Hulu series. It takes viewers on a remarkable journey alongside Officinalis as she connects aspiring farmers with experts, helping them fulfill their dreams of living in harmony with nature on their terms.
More than just an exploration into homesteading, aqua, micro, rooftop, and indoor farming, “Farm Dreams” embodies the essence of farmers helping farmers. Each episode showcases Indy Officinalis’ unwavering dedication to empowering individuals to create thriving farms and sustainable livelihoods. The series also delves into the profound shift many individuals are experiencing, seeking to live more intentionally and adventurously. With her extensive farming expertise and infectious passion, Officinalis guides aspiring farmers to live harmoniously with nature.
The series premiere started with the “Homestead Reborn” episode, where Officinalis visits first-time homesteaders Grace and Will Lyons in Washington state. With a baby on the way and Grace’s health at risk, the Lyons’ future relies on turning their risky venture into a thriving family farm. Indy seeks tips from nearby homesteaders, showcasing the power of community and resourcefulness in transforming their dreams into reality.
“Farm Dreams” is a series that will resonate with anyone who dreams of growing, rearing, harvesting, and breeding despite obstacles because, to them, farming is life. We chatted with Officinalis to discover the transformative power of farmers helping farmers on this awe-inspiring adventure and to understand how farming can be radical for Black people, especially Black women.
ESSENCE: Why’d you take an interest in farming? What do you love most about it?
Indy Officinalis: I took an interest in farming out of necessity. As a teenager, I realized how unhealthy the food I had grown up eating wasn’t harming my body or mental health. Once I learned about organic food, how it was a great alternative to conventional food growing, and how it could reduce some of the inflammation I was experiencing, I decided to buy organic produce but realized it was costly. Growing up with little money and limited resources, I realized seeds are much cheaper than produce. And I was like, “That’s cool. I can buy a $3 packet of seeds and grow 50 tomatoes.” Then, it evolved from there.
I’ve been growing food and working on farms since I was 19, and now I’m 30. So, 11 years of growing food. My experience on the homestead in North Carolina helped me move more into leadership roles in food evolving. And then, from the homestead, I started managing a community garden in my neighborhood near me that was part of a low-income housing community of predominantly Black and brown folks. I learned that I can grow food and troubleshoot many farm systems, but teaching other people how to grow food feels like the more valuable side of the work for me now.
Seeing you on television and in urban environments shows other Black women that farming can be for us, too.
For the longest time, there was a lot of gatekeeping of farming practices by the white community. Black people have been doing regenerative agriculture, have been doing permaculture, and have been doing organic gardening forever. And we just haven’t called it that because we were doing what our grandparents and ancestors taught us. We were doing things like, you know, planting our beans with our corn, not realizing that that’s a method of pest mitigation. We must recognize that we’ve been doing this work and don’t need to conform to that language. You know, unless it serves us.
What’s the premise of your newest show, “Farm Dreams?”
The premise of the show is really beautiful. I didn’t create the show, but I’m in love with the concept, and I was happy to help bring it to life, just this idea of being a farmer or being a farmer of color and going out and connecting with other farmers. Working on farms can become lonely and isolated because farming the land is like caring for a baby. It feels tough to leave your land, even to go out and get advice. So that’s what the show is about going to a farm, helping farmers identify some of their problems, and finding other people in their community with those solutions. And just recognizing that, as farmers, we all need to stick together, so I want viewers to feel inspired by that. As a farmer, you don’t have to feel alone; a whole community of people is happy to support you. I also want it to be empowering to know that you can take your backyard and start growing food for your family. Instead of scrolling social media forever, you can get your hands dirty. I wanted to share that sense of joy that I’ve found through farming is exactly what I want my viewers to feel.
What was your favorite part of the series?
My favorite part of the series was celebrating American agriculture. We know that Americans are huge food producers, but getting to hear the stories behind these small family farms, spending time with people from Alaska or New Jersey, and experiencing that human-to-human connection was one of the most fulfilling parts of being a part of this show.
How is farming deeply connected to our Black culture?
The disturbing truth is that many people equate American Blackness with slavery. The idea of being Black American, you have these conjured images of plantations. So, for me, farming is a way to reclaim that idea. I hate that people think of Black folks and their relationship with the land and growing food as incredibly negative. It’s hard to even talk about what an awful scar in human history it was, so I’m not asking people to forget that. But I am encouraging Black people to take some time to try to reclaim our relationship with the land. Growing your food can help heal the land because American soil has a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. But I think it, it brings something about in ourselves, you know, it helps heal ourselves, too. So, I think it’s one of the most healing things I’ve found that addresses that level of generational trauma.
How can farming be radical for Black people, especially Black women?
If you grew up with this modern Black culture, you know that it’s urged upon us not to get our shoes dirty but to be presentable and clean. I agree because we’ve always had to be better than our white counterparts to be viewed equally. I think that if we can move past that and let ourselves get a little bit dirty and messy, because healing isn’t clean, healing is messy. Healing is sweaty, tearful, and bloody. If we let ourselves put our hands in that soil and grow our food, then it’s a radical act.
Are there bite-sized tips for Black women interested in immersing themselves in nature?
Pick a Saturday and find your local community garden because you can learn so much from a community garden. It’s an excellent alternative for anyone who doesn’t have a backyard or doesn’t even have a balcony and lives in a city. It’s the idea of growing food and community; you can learn much from people with little plots there. I always recommend that people find their local community garden to get more in touch with nature, explicitly growing food.
What’s next for you? I hear I heard you speak about an upcoming book. I’d love to know a little about that if you can share.
I’m currently working on a foraging guide, which will be practical. It’ll teach you how to identify certain edible and medicinal plants, but it will also explore how some wild plants got to the Americas. Outside, I’m farming, drinking water, and caring for my dog.
Farm Dreams premiered on 7/29 at 10 p.m. on Nat Geo Wild and will air weekly on Saturdays. The entire series is available on Disney+ and Hulu.