Episode 010 - Award-Winning Feature Writer, Candace Dantes

Internationally published brand blogger, and your neighborhood ag journalist, Candace Dantes talks us through the agriculture world from her perspective. Candace promotes her involvement with the national not-for-profit organization, Outdoor Afro, where she serves as the Director of Communications. Candace mentions working with celebrities like Oprah, Venus Williams, and more.

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Podcast Transcript

Taylor McAdams: You're listening to the kick your boots up podcast, where we swap stories of the West. Whether you're just waking up or getting in for the day, come on in and kick your boots up. Joining us today on the kick your boots up podcast is none other than the fourth-generation cowgirl, award-winning feature writer, internationally published brand blogger and of course your neighborhood ag journalists. This is Candace Dantes. Candace, what an honor it is to have you here you're an icon in my eyes. I'm so excited to get to know your story. And just thank you for all just taking the time to be here.

Candace Dantes: Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be with my Justin family. So let's talk about it. Let’s Kick Our Boots Up!

Taylor McAdams: You know, you truly are at this point, family can't, Candace. We've had a lot of interactions with you, you get to actually serve as a freelance writer for us for our Boot Prints portion. But it's about time we get you on the front side and in front of the camera, getting to see everything. And so before we get started, for everyone that doesn't know out there, tell it give us a little bit of your background. Tell us about yourself.

Candace Dantes: Yeah, so born and raised in agriculture. Like you said, I'm a fourth-generation cowgirl. So I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time on the land with the elders, and specifically, my great-grandmother. And so I'm originally from Baldwin County, Georgia, and grew up on 300 acres. And today, that's Centennial land that my parents, siblings, and I keep up. So it's a very special place to us that we still can return to and, and just kind of have those memories of our childhood. And so it was a cattle operation that my great-grandfather had, he passed it down to my father. But Taylor, what was so interesting about my childhood that I carry with me is that we had so many different interpretations of agriculture. So it wasn't just the cattle experience, we had gardening with my grandmother, we had, you know, chores, we had to do, like, you know, chopping wood. My father also taught us all how to ride horses. And in between that, we learned things like gun safety and wilderness survival. So because I came from this multi-generational experience, I was able to kind of tap in and activate so many different possibilities on the land and saw that you know, agriculture can pretty much be anything you want it to be in nature. And so that's that's where I came from.

Taylor McAdams: I love that about you, your outlook about AG is so broad and diverse and very inclusive to you, you allow people to, even if they have a garden in the backyard, feel like they're a part of of a bigger picture of agriculture. And that's really what it's all about. And so that's why I personally am so inspired by you, but I know everyone out there listening, if they don't know you, they will become inspired by you after this just because the way you look at life is truly incredible. And then growing up in the Georgia land, that land is beautiful. I've only been able to drive out through there a few times, and just having, I feel like endless opportunity wide open spaces that's got to be so incredible for growing up.

Candace Dantes: It is and you know, I grew up in small town USA and rural communities. So you knew your neighbor, your you know, they knew your family name, and you know, everybody is there to help each other get to that that next level because it was so personal. So growing up, our teachers knew, you know, my grandmother and my aunts and uncles they probably went to school with them and so there was this really close-knit connection that I always adored about the South because you genuinely knew people in your community.

Taylor McAdams: I can relate to that so much. I feel like me growing up in Cleveland, Oklahoma, small little town as well. I feel like my parents knew what I did at school that day before I even got home. I'm sure you can relate.


Candace Dantes: Yes, someone in the community was gonna tell.

Taylor McAdams: That made dating hard that made life hard in general, but I think it made us better. We turned out okay.

Candace Dantes: It kept us on the straight and narrow that's true.

Taylor McAdams: Absolutely. Then let's talk a little bit more about your journalism then that's a such a big part of you. You're an incredible writer. Every time I get a piece from you, I'm like, wow, chef's kiss. That's beautiful. But let's let's talk about a little bit how you got started I'm sure it was so interesting to first started about ag writing.

Candace Dantes: Yeah, so again, you know, pulling back from the elders I enjoyed hearing my great-grandmother and grandma's mother's talk on the phone. And so before there were this audio anything there was the landline and to see my grandmother sit on the porch with a phone and to hear her laugh to hear her say all of these cool southern nuances we have like Girl and Ooh, did you hear this? And it just kind of put you in this place. I'd never knew what they were talking about as a kid. But the expressions that came with the conversation, the laughter, the joy,


Taylor McAdams: The twirling of the cord.


Candace Dantes: Okay, yeah. Getting into that community news of that church gossip, like, really moved me to the point of it. I wanted to learn how to storytell like that. You giving people the facts, but you're also making it so relatable, that it's easy for anybody to come into the storyline.


Taylor McAdams: Oh, yeah. And I've got to ask then I'm really curious. Were you one of those kids that picked up the phone on the other line just to listen to it.


Candace Dantes: Sometimes, Taylor. We ain’t gonna admit it.


Taylor McAdams: Hey, I’ll admit it. My sister knows I used to do that to my sister, too. But no, that's, that's really incredible. That's how you got to hear the stories and then be able to interpret them for your own mind, and then be able to then turn around and get them out into a beautifully written story. But alongside writing, and just family and agriculture, you have a lot of different passions. Tell us briefly about some of your passions.

Candace Dantes: Yeah, so I definitely love farm fashion. Again, that's having this generational viewpoint of what you can wear on the land. So the elders in their vintage Western fan fashion in the overalls. And then you had my parents who were contemporary at the time. And you see in this kind of country, Western and rodeo fashion come into, you know, the family farm scene. And then for us, I'm an 80s baby. So then you had you know, the the denim and the shoulder pads, and you know, the big hair, I know, physique hair, and these really cool funky colors. And so today, you know, if you look at my social, you will see a hodgepodge of all of these different decades coming together and just celebrating the different ways we interpret fashion on farmland. And so I think that's a big piece for me, is storytelling, how we use gear and equipment in these outdoor spaces.

Taylor McAdams: And something that's really unique about you, I've noticed, is you can dress you can take an outfit and dress it up or dress it down and still be able to do everything that you can do on a daily basis. You can go from office to field in no time. And just anyone, Yeah, needs to go out and watch. Look at your Instagram. And I know I personally get so inspired, scrolling through the feed seeing your different look, seeing everything that you do, you definitely are you stick with the Ag look, but then you push the boundaries just enough to make us think, whoa, she did it. This is awesome. Candace is going places, which is probably why working withWrangler, and Justin has kind of helped her get to be a little bit edgier and prove that you can wear one outfit to do versatile, different things.

Candace Dantes: Exactly. And that's definitely my lifestyle. So in the morning, from farm work to in-the-field reporting, to have to be a wife and a mom and get to the grocery store. You need to be able to have fashion that's versatile to go from these different scenes as part of my agricultural lifestyle. So yes, thank you for that.

Taylor McAdams:  Yes, of course. And one thing that I really respect about you too is you're a boss, babe, you are the inaugural communications director for an nonprofit nonprofit organization called Outdoor Afro. And I want to ask you a little bit more about that that is so so cool to be not only one of the leaders in the industry, but also just to be a woman and to be a part of Outdoor Afro and in the application that you have there. So tell us a little bit more about outdoor Afro and how you kind of got involved with that.

Candace Dantes: Yeah, so outdoor Afro was actually a national, not for profit organization. And I've been a part of the team for a year now. I'm the Communications Director. So I set the strategic tone of the visuals and the messaging that goes along with the brand. And you know, just plainly put Outdoor Afro is a love story with nature. And our mission is to celebrate and inspire Black connections and leadership. I love that piece leadership and nature. And so what we do, Taylor is we select and train volunteer leaders. And right now, we have more than 100 volunteer leaders across the country, we made sure that they know how to guide their communities lead their communities safely and sustainably. And the really cool part that I get to go on and storytell  around is that these volunteer leaders are all over the country in different regions, and different terrains and territories that from the south and the fact that I come from humidity can be kind of a culture shock with how we interact with land, water And wildlife. So our volunteer leaders may take their communities on hiking, biking, swimming, horseback riding, gardening experiences, and it just really depends on what the community is interested in, and how they want to bond in nature, and it's just beautiful and a blessing for me to go around the country to tell those stories.

Taylor McAdams: I love your outlook. You said, it's beautiful. It really is nature itself is beautiful. But then everything that you guys are doing is beautiful. And in fact, there's a lot of beautiful people that don't really get a lot of credit. But a lot that do. I mean, you guys work with celebrities you work with I mean, Rue, for example, Rue Mapp, let's talk about her too.

Candace Dantes: Yes, yes, our founder and CEO, I call her our fearless leader Rue Mapp, and you can follow a route map.com. She founded Outdoor Afro in 2009. And she founded it as a blog. And it was her kitchen table blog that, over the years, she wanted to professionalize. And so, in 2015, it became a national, not-for-profit organization. And yet she's gone on hiking events with volunteer leaders and community members with Oprah. Last year, we had the opportunity to do a beach hike with Venus Williams in Miami. So we have a lot of participation on so many different levels from local, regional, national, and even celebrities understand the importance of getting outside and experiencing nature from a very Joy driven healing perspective.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, yes, I think anyone needs to go go on a trip and see an example of that. Because even if you think what, you know what nature is, just having a different perspective on it all would be a great refresh, restart. But how do you get involved with outdoor appro?

Candace Dantes: Oh, my gosh, so many different ways, definitely go to outdoor afro.org. And just kind of learn about what we do. But we also have on the site, the different locations, we have four regions, which is the south, northeast, Midwest, and west. And so you can find on the site ways to connect with us via Facebook or meetup for now. And it's really cool because the meetup shows all the different things the volunteer leaders are preparing to do each month. So you're kind of you know, equipped to go into nature and know what supplies or gear and equipment you need to go on these adventures. But the best way is to definitely reach out and connect with our website and learn more about our brand.

Taylor McAdams: I know me personally, I live in the city now and don't get that much opportunity to go out in rural America. So what you guys have goin is a really big thing. But also really quick before we move on to something else. What's the most rewarding part for you, as the communications director getting to oversee and see all these success stories? What's the most rewarding part about it for you?

Candace Dantes: Yeah, so I have always been a huge fan of education. I used to teach journalism to second through fifth graders in Atlanta. So I love storytelling and educating. So I think the really cool part for me is to travel the country, tell the stories of our volunteer leaders and community members, but also educate about the different ways you can easily tap into nature I love when Ruth says nature isn't somewhere out there, right that we have to go search for nature is in our backyard. Nature's when you and I Taylor have to go to the grocery store. And we can turn these into really cool experiences, you know, within our neighborhood. So I love to go around the country to educate about the work that we're doing to just simply get people reconnected it to the outdoors.

Taylor McAdams: And you're doing just that you as a person and then as the organization as well. And you center the communications director, you kind of have the opportunity to be the brand manager or overseer as well. So let's move on to a different topic, a little bit of brand management, creating a brand. How did you get your own brand, Southern style and steeds up and going there's a lot of people out there that want to have their own fashion brand or blog even and don't know where to begin. So tell us about that.

Candace Dantes: Yes. So my blog, which was actually a blog a zine, because I love magazines, I actually started 10 years ago, I cannot believe this is my 10th anniversary and-

Taylor McAdams: A decade look at you!

Candace Dantes: I know, right, and I'm like, it took me a while to really understand what I want wanted to do. So I really advise that you take a step back and think about, okay, what do I want people to know, what do I want to share? And be really strategic about that? And and so for me, I wanted to celebrate my childhood growing up on the land. But how do you do that in the 21st century, right. And I realized that the one thing I always get comments on is my Western fashion. And so my way of connecting with people started with sharing my my My fashion and just the lifestyle around that. And then I will segue into my lifestyle, you know, on farmland, but I think is really doing your research and identifying your why, why am I doing this. And for me, it was a celebration of my family. My community, which I was born and raised outside and Baldwin County, but the small town next to that where I went to school was Millageville. So I wanted to celebrate everything that was my childhood, but also telling the stories of those people. That helped me get to where I am Taylor, today in small town, USA. So it was very important to kind of narrow down what my focus was, and I mean, get like laser-focused on what this is about. And ironically, it went from being a blog, a zine Taylor to a business. A agribusiness because I realized so many farmers wanted to come online and share their products, services, and ideas. But who has the time? And how do you do it effectively and efficiently? And so it kind of went from a blog azine to this like branding bar where I could help educate farmers, which they call us now farmer influencers, on how to tap into those digital audiences, and really drive their brand in a way that relates to the general public.

Taylor McAdams: And you touched a little bit on the importance of farmers to have a brand in the new media age. But how important, let's touch on it a little bit deeper, how important is it to have a brand.

Candace Dantes: Very important, if you're you're planning on getting certain services products, like I said, ideas out to the public. It's just the way of the world now. Yes, we have the storefronts and the traditional ways of connecting with customers. But there's a completely different market out there for the taking. And I think it's just hard to or sometimes it can be overwhelming to get online and to share what you have to offer with people. And so again, like I say, you want to be laser-focused on what your why is. And I think it's important for, for people just starting their brands to understand that this digital space is, is so wide open. And you don't have to do everything at once. Like for me personally, I have my site. But I realized the way I have been connecting so fast with so many people and brands is Instagram. So I usually drive that narrative, the work that I do through Instagram, I don't need all these other social platforms to do that. But I do want people to know, you have to be super strategic, and realize where your audience is. And that's where you can connect with them.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, yeah, well said that it's very challenging to figure out how to handle it all and juggle it all. And I feel like a lot of people get so lost and going, why that they don't focus in on the the near right here. You know, let's do what we're doing right here. But you kind of touched on my next question was talking about how to get people in, you know, included in agriculture, starting with their own brand. But maybe someone that isn't necessarily didn't grow up as a fourth generation cowgirl farm or whatever? What's your advice for them? They still want to have an interest in maybe the fashion that's maybe what draws them in similar to you? What would be your best piece of advice to have the to them to get into the industry and maybe get a brand started?

Candace Dantes: Yeah, definitely do your research. Before I start any story, any project, I do my research, I kind of investigate who has talked about this topic before who has gone down this path before, to kind of lay down the groundwork of, okay, this is what it is. And this is the possibility and how I can put my spin on it. So I do always advise people, research, research research, to really get your bearings on where you want to go based off of what people have done before you just to kind of get a better understanding of the landscape and the opportunities.

Taylor McAdams: Oh, yes. And before we go, I have kind of a fun question for you. I noticed when we first got to meet and we met via zoom and then now you have a fun little writing space that's like your honey hole that you get to spend your time to be creative when you're home and not on the road. Tell us about your little your little piece of home that you get to use to make yourself feel at home and let the creative juices flowing.

Candace Dantes: Oh my gosh. So yeah, I've created this little so around the house. I love macro May and I love plants. And I love candles. And so as like I try to bring nature and you see my background, I'm nature into my home. And my room is like that too. But I yeah, I have my little office nook where it's nothing but plant life, and agriculture. And I just hide an I can think and another thing I always carry with me, and you'll see around the house, are photos, I keep photos of my great-grandmother, my grandparents, my parents are everywhere. And here, of course, my husband and the course yet, but constantly looking at those reminders of the land, it just reinforces why I do this work, why stay up late nights, why I go knee-deep into the research and analytics to understand things because these people did so much Taylor to get me to where I am today.

Taylor McAdams: And you're one of the very few people that take the time to appreciate that and respect that. And that's why you're so well respected in the industry and amongst your peers. So thank you for taking the time out of your very, very, very busy schedule to share with us a little bit of of you. And so we really appreciate it. We really appreciate everything that you do as a freelance writer for Justin, and keep going girl, you are killing it, and you're inspirational to everyone. But before we go, I'd love to have the opportunity for you to be able to share yourself a little bit. So where can we find you? What are your social media handles, tell it tell us about your website, all of it?

Candace Dantes: Absolutely. You can follow me on Southern stouts with the s and steeds with the s.com because I love fashion and I love my horses. And my handle is the same southern styles and steeds. And please definitely visit my everyday work or Outdoor Afro at outdoor afro.org. And Taylor, I just want to tell you, thank you so much for the collaborations also to Justin, and I just look forward to more conversations.

Taylor McAdams: Without a doubt we we would love to talk to you for hours and years. So thank you again, Candace. This has been really fun.

Candace Dantes: Awesome, you all have a great day.

Taylor McAdams: Thanks for joining us on kick your boots up. I'm your host Taylor McAdams and we can't wait to share the next story of the West. Until then, feel free to like subscribe and leave us a review. Follow us on social media at Justin boots to keep up with our next episode. And we'll see you the next time you kick your boots up.