I get a lot of questions about the inspiration behind the name #ConquerTheSoil. Truth is, I struggled for a long time to come up with one. It is from the writings of one of the foremost intellects in American history, the phenomenal Mr. W.E.B. Du Bois.
In this passage, Mr. Du Bois references some of the many: cultural, environmental, and spiritual gifts brought to the United States by African slaves. Moral of the story inspiration is everywhere and the answer might just be in the moment you open that book.
My name is Abra Lee and welcome to the ConquerTheSoil family! It would be obvious (and easy) for me to start my first post with, well…soil. After all this is where most plants start. But, I’m gonna start with failure. My failure and how overcoming insecurities allowed me to have a very successful career in Horticulture. This is how we will help you too. By confronting failure and fear of plants, nature, and design and turning them into successes! Here you will be empowered with knowledge in the art and science of Horticulture. We will break complex principles down into simple lessons. You will feel confident and be able to take these lessons back to beautify your outdoor/indoor space and your community!
Here’s a little story…
I didn’t attend Auburn University to become a Horticulturist. I had no idea what to do with my life. One day, I was on the campus bus and we rolled up on some students looking at trees and taking notes while their professor talked. For real?! There’s such a thing as a tree class? And y’all are actually getting grades for learning outside? I was in!
I always enjoyed my plant classes and my professors. I did not enjoy the isolation I felt. I was black, one of only a handful of women, and the only person of color in the undergraduate program. Though I tried to “fit in” I felt lonely and excluded from a good ol’ boys club I would never be able to join. Many times I was depressed and did not show up for class. There was no excuse for this, but that is how I felt, insecure. Things got so bad I ended up failing courses and was placed on academic suspension. During the 6 months I sat out of school a surprising thing happened. My parents didn’t show anger towards me for my failures. Their disappointment was that I quit. How could I walk away from something I loved just because I wasn’t fitting in? What did “fit in” mean anyway? I was already good enough showing up as myself (and start your own darn club.) So what if you fail? Face the challenge–find your rhythm, your lane, and what speaks to you. This is also true with plants, nature, and design. You don’t always get it right the 1st, 2nd, or 506th time. But be open to change. Experiment and try. This is how you ConquerTheSoil!
Nature is an act of patience. Know you will get there. As a Horticulturist I still fail. I talk to my plants if I have too. I feel pressure every day because people think since I’m formally trained I have a “green thumb” and can grow anything. That’s simply not true. Plants don’t care about my previous failures and they don’t care about yours either.
ConquerTheSoil is a safe space to learn about Horticulture without feeling excluded. We will also regularly touch on some of my passions: Fashion and Culture. Whether you are here for the free content or, maybe you want something more in depth and would like to invest in some of the online classes and products we are putting together. We’ve got some fun stuff coming your way and are so glad you are here!
(P.S. The pic is circa 2001 I was a little lowly intern. My colleague Christian was the expert and helping me find my way with topiary shears!)