The first African American woman to run for the post of Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture, Nakita Hemingway hadn’t planned on becoming a politician. A graduate of Georgia State University, she majored in real estate and later received a degree in finance from the American Intercontinental University. A concerning encounter in 2018 with a local government official prompted Hemingway to reconsider her career path.
At the time, Hemingway had applied for a special-use land permit to open a cut-flower farm and bed-and-breakfast. While the law supported what Hemingway wanted to accomplish, she says the county commissioner imposed restrictions greater than required by the law.
“While going through the process, I noticed a disturbing pattern of favoritism to local developers and large businesses over regular, everyday citizens,” Hemingway says. “A county commissioner stood on my cut-flower farm and told me I would be better off selling my farmland to QuikTrip than getting him to remove the unwarranted and unjust land restrictions against the use of our farmland. When I decided to run for office, it was due to my understanding of just how broken leadership is in Georgia and the lack of small farmers having a real advocate and voice in our state.”
Her first race for state representative in 2020 was close; she lost the seat by only 779 votes. Hemingway wasn’t deterred. Less than a year later, she announced her candidacy for state commissioner of agriculture on Juneteenth. The Georgia native has ancestors who were slaves and became rice farmers along the Savannah River. Hemingway and her husband, Jonathan, are fifth-generation farmers.
SF: You lost your recent bid for the commissioner of agriculture. What did you want to accomplish if elected?
NH: I am deeply concerned about food insecurity and childhood hunger. Our already strained food system is becoming more at risk every day. Rising food costs, supply chain shortages, wildfires, and the war in Ukraine are concerning. I believe the best way to protect ourselves is by sourcing more locally. It is good for our farmers, our environment, and our families.
SF: How do you hope to cultivate the next generation of farmers?
NH: Let’s face it, I do not fit the stereotype of what a farmer should look like or the type of crop a farmer should grow. Being my authentic self and engaging young people in this industry is having a profound impact on how they imagine themselves in this space. I share my vision of growing a world-class food system in Georgia that is rooted in innovation and supports farmers. I can see the excitement for being a part of Georgia agriculture growing.
SF: Who has served as a role model?
NH: Female farmers are so inspiring because they do so much with little recognition or accolades. I have met so many brilliant and strong women in this space. I really wish every teenage girl could have the opportunity to spend at least one summer being mentored by a woman in agriculture because farming is such a tough business. Their resiliency is truly admirable and should be celebrated.
SF: What keeps you awake at night?
NH: Knowing that many of the issues we all face are nonpartisan, and everyone deserves to have a leader who will fight for them is what keeps me awake. It’s important to me that the people know no one should have to change their identity or beliefs to have the system work for them. Had I won on November 8, I would have made sure the office operated with integrity, transparency, and fairness for every grower in our state.
SF: If the Nakita of today could talk to young Nakita, what advice would she give her?
NH: Breathe. You’ve got this. You’re good enough!
Nakita Hemingway is a cut-flower farmer who ran to become Georgia’s commissioner of agriculture.
Hemingway and her husband, Jonathan, have four children and live in Dacula, Georgia.
She is an active member in the Democratic Party of Georgia, the Federation of Democratic Women, the Georgia Farm Bureau, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, Women in Agribusiness, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Trust, and the National Association of Realtors.