People of Planted: Clara Williams

Get to know Clara Williams aka the Aquarian glue that holds the farm together each day.

Hi Clara! Let's start by talking about what you do here at Planted. How long have you worked here and what do you do?

I've been here a little over a year...almost 2 years now. I started as a farm technician in the Processing Room, then my first official lead position was as Seed Lead. I was in Seeding for 2 weeks as a tech and they came to me about becoming the lead. Now, I'm the Operations Manager. Most of the time I'm chasing people around and screaming at them for breaks. On the daily, I'm creating systems and procedures to keep the farm running smoothly and I'm helping to build strong teams.

What did you do before you worked at Planted?

I was in school at Howard University. I was working at Panera and other restaurants in DC. When I came back to Detroit, I worked some random jobs and wasn't really working towards anything.

Did you expect the farm technician job to just be another one of those random jobs?

When I started here, I didn't expect to jump into it as much as I did. I don't know what I thought Planted was when I first started working here...I thought it was cannabis but then I got here and I saw it was different. I had never worked at a start-up before and I had never had a job that was this cool and relaxed. I think I found my purpose here.

What's your favorite thing about working here?

The challenges really. Kelly is my direct manager and she is really good about pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I think that's what the whole job does for me on the daily. This is my first time being in a leadership position so doing it was terrifying at first and it still is a little scary, but the thing I like most about Planted is that they're patient as people are learning. They really work with you and give you the right tools that you need to keep doing better even when you do mess up. You can see the people growing as the business grows.

If you could tell a potential hire one thing about Planted, what would it be?

I think it would depend on who I'm talking to, but Planted really gives you space to get your life together. I speak on that from don't feel like you're working a job for no reason. You can get stability and be able to do your work and also be able to take care of yourself outside of work. It's a really comfortable job and I think a lot of people look for that now.

You grew up in Detroit but left in 2018 and came back in do you feel about the change that happened in the city while you were gone?

Honestly...I think the changes are good, but I don't think things changed for the right people. There has been a lot of change, but the in part of the city where I'm from - the westside - there hasn't been a lot of change. They still benefit from what's happened but it isn't really reaching them directly.

You were really coming of age at a time when those changes were starting (2014ish) and Detroit was a really cool place to be.

I was in high school then - I went to Cass Tech in the heart of Midtown, right in the middle of all the good stuff. It was amazing then, being able to leave school and do whatever Downtown. Now when I come back to that area, it's not the same was easy then and there was just a feeling you would get walking on the Riverwalk and Downtown. It felt like home. Now, it's good and it's growing, but it feels less like home.

Back then, if someone came to visit you, where would you have taken them? What would you have wanted to show them about Detroit?

The main places that I used to go were the Riverwalk - it was just incredible, the movie theater in the Ren Can - we would immediately go there, I would love to ride the People Mover, riding it around in circles and stopping places like Greektown. We would go around Belle Isle and go to the Conservatory and the Aquarium. Now, I've tried to go back to those places but I could only stay for a few minutes. Maybe it's a mixture of me maturing and not having the same energy, but it just doesn't hit the same anymore. It feels different.

Where would you take someone now, if you wanted to show them what Detroit feels like to you?

Mainly the restaurants, I think Detroit really speaks through its food. There are a lot of restaurants Downtown, it's definitely improved on the food. There are some spots that really give more insight into the city itself. Some restaurants just have posters of what Detroit used to look like, music that Detroit used to be known for - there are restaurants that are really bringing back that original Detroit feeling. 

What's your favorite restaurant in the city?

There's a couple...They Say is one, The Kitchen on Woodward - it's a vegan restaurant. I love Fishbones, that's really good. I used to stop at Niki's, but I'm not sure if it's open anymore.

What's your favorite meal to eat?

Probably something with shrimp in it. I have a lot of favorite meals, but it really depends on my mood. When I'm angry, it's some kind of Alfredo pasta...shrimp Alfredo, definitely.

What's your favorite Planted salad?

The Belle Isle, I love the sweet and saltiness of the dates and chickpeas. I like to add extra things like shrimp and some seasonings and I like almonds in my salads for the crunch. Well...actually the New Center is my favorite. That's the one right there...Belle Isle is my favorite non-seasonal though.

What's your favorite microgreen?

Sun shoots...they are amazing. They taste so good, I like the familiar taste of them. When I first got here, I was like, "What the hell is this?" *laughs* but the sun shoots tasted like sunflower seeds. The pea shoots are a close second now.

What do you do outside of work for fun?

I like to cook a lot. I try out different recipes and right now I'm keeping a roster of all the ones I want to make. Three times a week, I make something new for dinner and at least once a week I make a new dessert. I spend a lot of time with my dog, going for walks, and I like to spend time with my mom, too.

I know you have houseplants...what is on your wishlist?

I had a pilea but it died because my apartment was really really cold. I want one of those huge monstera plants to put in the corner of my room. I also want to start a collection of calatheas, those are my favorite plants. I want every type of calathea that I can find.

When you first applied to Planted, you thought it was cannabis. I'm sure since starting here, you've learned a lot about hydroponics. What is something you thought you knew about hydroponics or vertical farming that you've learned is actually different than you thought?

I didn't really know anything about hydroponics or vertical farming before I started. The main thing I've learned is about nutrients - I didn't know that it was down to formulas to feed the plants. Different nutrients affect plants differently and I had no idea. Learning about different types of plants like monocots and dicots and how each type of plant takes in nutrients differently.

You just took a vacation to there anywhere else you've traveled that's been really formative for you?

I went to Memphis in college for Alternative Spring Break. When I got to Memphis, it was a lot for me. We volunteered at the juvenile detention center and the prison - we talked to everyone. It was really different for me to visit somewhere where people had always been looked at a certain way and seeing them in a completely different light. It sparked my interest in helping people- everyone is not the same and people don't end up in prisons for the same reasons or because they're the same type of people.

You have a little dog called Cecil, our office dog. When you get home from work, what do you talk to Cecil about?

I talk to Cecil about everything. When we get home from work, he goes to sleep - he doesn't like to talk, he's tired. I talk to him about my relationships, I talk to him about the job like, "Did you hear what happened today?" *laughs* because he's always in the office. He is literally my emotional support and vice versa.

What's your favorite song to put on when you're working in the farm?

Before, there were so many people and before I became a manager, it was Megan Thee Stallion. Now I play Sunbathe by Miguel, that drives them crazy. They know when that comes on that I'm in the room.

If there was one thing that you would want someone you've never met to know about you, what would it be?

Hmm...that my intentions are always pure. I think that sometimes I can come off hard or even aggressive. I am firm but it's not that I have an attitude or an issue. Even if the delivery is wrong, it's pure intentions, and I'm working on that now. My position has challenged me with this a lot, just being able to work on my delivery and not show my emotions or energy as much. I know my intentions, but other people only know what I'm putting out.



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