Alexis Nikole Nelson Talks Pulling Up A Chair At The Foraging Table And Building An Online Community Of Millions
Photo Credit: Gilberto Tadday / TED

Alexis Nikole Nelson Talks Pulling Up A Chair At The Foraging Table And Building An Online Community Of Millions

Alexis Nikole Nelson has built a following of millions, but how? For her, the recipe is simple — by being authentic and giving users a front-row seat to the world of foraging.

Lack Of Representation Inspires Online Foraging Journey

Scrolling through the Cincinnati native’s socials, users will find informative videos about plant life and fruits. Nelson hand picks all her foods and has fittingly adopted the monicker “Black Forager.”

“I noticed with all of the other foragers I was following, I saw no Black representation. To me, that was crazy because so many of our ancestors survived because of their foraging abilities…and because you couldn’t see me, it was really important for me to stress to my audience that I am Black, that you are learning from a Black woman and I don’t want you to forget it,” Nelson told AfroTech exclusively during an interview at Ted2022: A New Era.

Nelson Wins James Beard Award For Social Media Account

In 2009, Nelson amassed a following of 10,000 on Tumblr for a page dedicated to sustainable fashion. Therefore, taking up space on other social media platforms was a decision that made sense to Nelson because she was accustomed to establishing an online community from a shared interest. 

At the time, Instagram was a place for Nelson to simply document her happy moments, but the influencer wave set a new standard for creating and monetizing content. Nelson became more intentional with engaging on social platforms to see what would land under the user’s radar. Now, you could say her combined following of four million across platforms is proof she has hit the jackpot.

“For a while, Instagram, I was not thinking of it as a place to grow. It was just a place to document stuff that I felt good about, but sure enough, like everything, people start asking how you can make money from it. We started seeing influencers coming into prominence in the 2010s. I started being a bit more intentional with the posts on my personal —
my ‘Hello, I’m Alexis’ page — and saw my follower counts start to grow again,” she said.

Of course, her intentionality has proved to be a formula for success. In fact, Nelson received the James Beard Award for Social Media Account, Cincinnati Esquire reports. The annual award preservers The James Beard Foundation Awards’ goal, which is to “recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive,” the company’s website states.

Foraging Is In Our DNA

Nelson’s online transparency is putting foraging further on the map and she hopes the Black community will be reminded the space is woven into our DNA.

“Go to those mushroom forays, go to those like regional forage and gatherings. Go to those wild food banquets because you don’t know who you’re inspiring by doing it,” Nelson told AfroTech. “It’s always hard when you are the first or when you’re still very heavily in the minority, but be loud and be proud because this is just as much our space as it is anybody else’s. Part of our beautiful, torturous history in this country, foraging is tied up in it. It was part of the way that we survived.”