Business News for the Mississippi Delta

Colleen Buyers

By Lyndsi naron

Colleen Buyers, Founder of Shared Experiences in Clarksdale, is changing the way the world looks at the agriculture industry.

Raised in both San Francisco, CA and Vancouver, BC, Buyers loves to travel and had seen all fifty states by the time she was thirty. 

Buyers attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, for both her undergraduate degrees (Psychology and Science Studies) as well as her graduate degree. She focused her graduate research studies on the psychology of bioethics in emerging scientific technologies.

“It actually translates directly to my work in ag-marketing now,” says Buyers. “My research on science communication and public opinion on topics like GMO’s in the 90’s can help us today.” 

According to Buyers, she began her love affair with Mississippi after having worked in Jackson shortly after Katrina.

“I have been telling people ever since Mississippi is one of the best places I’ve been,” says Buyers. “I founded Shared Experiences as an infrastructure company to build underdeveloped ‘assets’ (like history without museums, or farms you can’t really visit) into tangible things like tours and events…which we can then market. It’s tourism as economic development.”

Buyers says she wants to bring people together through Shared Experiences.

“For example, you might assume a Berkeley environmentalist and a Delta hunter are diametrically opposed,” says Buyers. “They may disagree on guns and more—but bring them together, and they’ll both tell you they’re passionate conservationists and multigenerational stewards who love the land.”

Buyers’ grandmother and great-grandfather were both musicians. Many influences such as these have driven Buyers to develop things like the VoiceMap audio walking tour for Visit Clarksdale, Live From Clarksdale, and the Women in Blues Festival to support musicians and local businesses.

“My partner, David Rodwin, is a former opera composer, and a New York and Hollywood storyteller and film guy,” says Buyers. “Any time you see professional-level productions from Shared Experiences…that’s David.”

According to Buyers, she started her first company to create a book that has outsold expectations and gone to press three times, but she never wanted to be a full time author. 

“I’ve always thought business can change the world. I was an analyst at a Fortune 100 company. Then, I joined Rocket Farms to work with my mentor. He convinced me to join him in agriculture. He said it’s like playing Farmville, but in real life. Being on the strategy team meant running production planning, R&D, product development, and marketing work.”

Buyers says she has been working with plants as “products” for over ten years now. 

“Being headquartered so close to Silicon Valley helped me absorb best practices from a variety of industries—while being rooted in Salinas,” says Buyers. “Traveling between work in both places, the Mississippi Delta, and the Salinas valley, the connections aren’t lost on me.”

Buyers is a member of the Commonwealth Club and the Dahlia Society of California as well as a recreational curler and advocate for the sport.

According to Buyers, Delta farmers are some of the most sophisticated businessmen using the some of the most advanced technology on the planet.

“That’s why I’m stoked to use ‘farm tours’ (and social media) as a form of ag-marketing and public education,” says Buyers. “We Yankees read about soybean tariffs in The Washington Post—but we’ve never seen a combine; forget that cotton comes from a plant; and don’t realize eighty percent of rice we eat is actually grown in the U.S. It’s cheesy, but that’s why I believe Shared Experiences can change the world.”