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40 farmers under 40

Meet the new crop of American farmers -- young and energetic idealists who are bringing local, sustainable food back to the table.

Article from Mother Nature Network

By Matt Hickman


FARM AID: Singer Jason Mraz is the proud owner of a farm in California. (Photo: Bil Zelman/Zelman Studios)

Who do you picture when you think of an American farmer? A leathery-handed AARP type who rises at dawn, works the fields all day and returns home when Sally Mae rings the supper bell? If so, you aren't too far off. According to the USDA, the average American agrarian is a white male aged 55 or older. And some studies show that the presence of young farmers, 18 to 35, is actually in decline.

But while they might be dwindling in numbers, young farmers are growing in visibility. And they're a motley, stereotype-shattering crew, for sure. They're urban, they hold advanced degrees and they're often female. They sprout up in not-so-bucolic places like Brooklyn, Oakland, Atlanta and Indianapolis, and they sometimes work as educators, eco-entrepreneurs, yogis, journalists, filmmakers, activists and doting parents on the side. They're passionate and adventurous. And most notably, they're focused on sustainability and community building. The following list features 40 American farmers under the age of 40, compiled with help from dozens of people in the farming industry — from farmers themselves to those who help them in the nonprofit sector to those in the media who cover them. They aren't in any particular order (farmer No. 5 isn't necessarily better than farmer No. 15, for example), and in no way should this list be considered scientific. Think of it more as starting point, a beginning to a larger conversation about the collective hope for the future of American farming.Straw hats off to older farmers — they're the agricultural backbone of this country — but it's also time to acknowledge that Young MacDonald has a farm, too. These 40 up-and-coming farmers are happily working the earth from Roy, Wash., to Tivoli, N.Y., and the crops they grow are just as diverse as their backgrounds. Without further ado, let's meet the gang ...

1) Jason Mraz, 32
"Mraz Farms"

San Diego, Calif.

Singer/songwriter Jason Mraz has produced a bounty of melodic pop-rock songs since hitting it big with his sophomore album, Mr. A-Z, in 2005. (His 2008 follow-up, We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things., has sold 2.5 million copies.) But reggae- and folk-inflected ditties aren't the only sweet crops Mraz harvests — the Virginia native is also an enthusiastic avocado farmer. After buying five acres in an agricultural area of San Diego, he settled in and began farming the pear-shaped, green-skinned fruits. He also installed a solar-power system on his farm to let the sun fuel more than just his plants.

Mraz has said he eats two to four avocados daily as part of his mostly raw-foods diet, but he's not against making a little green on the side, too. "I do sell my avocados," he told CNN during a 2008 interview. "I mean, they don't have a sticker on them that say that these are from the Mraz Farms, but I moved into an area that all of us are avocado farmers. ... Believe me, our kitchen is just like decked out with them. We're constantly washing them, we're eating them and we're giving them to all our friends."

 

2) Zoë Bradbury, 29
Valley Flora Farm
Langlois, Ore.

Born onto a small sheep ranch on the Oregon coast, Zoë Ida Bradbury grew up in hoodie sweatshirts and rubber boots — birthing lambs in the spring, watching salmon spawn in the fall, and taming plums, blackberries and tomatoes into canning jars all summer. Her love of food, farming and rural life got its foothold early and carried her full-circle back to her native southern Oregon, where the 29-year-old now runs her own farm, growing mixed produce and berries for local markets with the help of her family and a team of draft horses.

Her work in sustainable agriculture has engaged her with several nonprofits, including Ecotrust, the Agriculture and Land-based Training Association, the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. She's a regular contributor to Edible Portland and her work has also appeared in USA Today, Oregon Coast Magazine, The Oregonian, Grist.org, Draft Horse Journal and Stanford Magazine. She's also the author of the online blog Diary of a Young Farmer. Before breaking ground on her own land, Bradbury spent three years co-managing Sauvie Island Organics, a diversified fresh market farm where she oversaw production and apprentice training for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. 

Bradbury did her undergraduate work at Stanford University, where she studied ecological anthropology with a focus on sustainable agriculture. Her honors thesis took her home to Floras Creek, Ore., and then on to Chile, where she took a hard look at the struggle to sustain family agriculture in both hemispheres. She recently completed her master's degree with a focus on rural development, food systems and community change.

 

3) Ian Cheney, 29
Truck Farm
Brooklyn, N.Y.

New England native Ian Cheney and his friend Curt Ellis are Wicked Delicate, a Brooklyn-based production company/advocacy project. The duo's latest creation, Truck Farm, is a food/film project starring a gray 1986 Dodge pickup bequeathed to Cheney by his grandfather. This is no ordinary pickup truck: Truck Farm combines "green roof technology, organic compost, and heirloom seeds to create a living, mobile garden on the streets of Brooklyn." A solar-powered time-lapse camera captures the crops' progress as they grow in the truck bed/garden throughout the summer. For $20, New Yorkers can join the Truck Farm CSA program and receive a DVD of the Truck Farm film — plus part of the season's harvest, of course, which includes lettuce, arugula, parsley, basil and more.

Cheney holds both bachelor's and master's degrees from Yale, where he was a co-founding member of the Yale Sustainable Food Project. After graduate school, he co-created and starred in the Peabody Award-winning film King Corn (2007) and directed the documentary TheGreening of Southie (2008). He travels frequently to show his films, lead discussions and give talks on topics of sustainability and agriculture. He's also an astrophotographer and contributing blogger for theHuffington Post.

 

4) Jason Mark, 34
Alemany Farm

San Francisco, Calif.

Jason Mark, a writer/farmer active in the sustainable food movement, spends half his time co-managing Alemany Farm, a four-acre organic fruit-and-vegetable garden in San Francisco. The farm's mission is to boost food security in low-income communities, provide environmental education to children and adults, and grow green jobs.

The rest of his time, Mark serves as the editor of the environmental quarterly magazine Earth Island Journal. Aside the Journal, his writings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle,The NationThe ProgressiveUtne Reader, GastronomicaE, Grist.org and Alternet.org. He's also a co-author of Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grassroots.

 

5) Owen O'Connor, 24
6) KayCee Wimbish, 33
Awesome Farm
Tivoli, N.Y.

KayCee Wimbish and Owen O'Connor foundedAwesome Farm in January 2008, an idea they first hatched while working together on a vegetable farm. Although they originally planned to start a tempeh business, their concept eventually blossomed from fake animals into real ones, and Awesome Farm was born.

O'Connor and Wimbish currently raise 70 ewes along with their 115 lambs, 1,200 meat chickens and a flock of laying hens. Wimbish, a former second-grade school teacher, is originally from Tulsa, Okla., while O'Connor grew up in Dutchess County, N.Y. Aside from day-to-day farm operations, O'Connor is also working on a project to make grass digestible for humans.

 

7) Vernay "Pilar" Reber, 37
Sunnyside Organic Seedlings

Richmond, Calif.

Vernay Reber has been working full time in commercial agriculture since the age of 18. She began in huge greenhouses growing wholesale, worked her way up to a pesticide applicator, then eventually to a grower responsible for acres of annuals.

She loved the pace of agriculture, the fact that she could turn out a greenhouse full of plants in a month, and the complex set of problems she had to solve, from getting the plants seeded to getting them onto a truck to be sold. But something inside told her that the system was broken, and that pesticides were a major part of it.

So she enrolled in the University of California-Santa Cruz's agroecology programwith hopes of somehow finding work in organic agriculture after graduating — but she ended up back in commercial greenhouse operations. While Reber was working for a company in Salinas Valley, a chemical applicator's wife gave birth to a baby with cornea blindness, then a few months later a woman working in production had a baby born with the same disorder.

Two weeks later, Reber quit and started Sunnyside Organics, where she grows 400 or so varieties of veggie and herb seedlings for 75 garden centers and two farmers markets. In-season, Sunnyside employs six to nine workers, including both at-risk youth and "happy Berkeley kids." Sunnyside has become a catalyst for people to grow their own food, supporting more than 15 school gardens and nonprofits that promote gardening with plant starts.

 

8) Caitlin Arnold, 24
9) Chandler Briggs, 25

10) Roby Ventres-Pake, 19
Island Meadow Farm
Vashon Island, Wash.

Island Meadow Farm sits on 10 acres of sloping woodland nestled in the middle of Vashon Island, Wash., in the heart of Puget Sound. Its farm stand is a local landmark for small Vashon Island farms and for the island's first-ever CSA program. With more than 100 years of continuous farming history, the property has known many different hands and grown countless pounds of produce. Since becoming "Island Meadow" and a certified organic farm in the early 1990s, it has developed from a Seattle Pike Place Market farm into an island-serving farm stand stocked nearly year-round. It's known for its excellent salad mix and pastured chicken eggs, and recently added a mobile Hoop House.

Caitlin Arnold, Chandler Briggs and Roby Ventres-Pake (pictured above, left to right) came into the 2009 season with a combined six years of experience apprenticing on other Northwest farms. The three manage Island Meadow together, growing a wide array of produce and eggs for the local farmers market, restaurants and, of course, the farm stand. Driven by their desire to provide fresh, healthy food for the community on Vashon Island — and by their rejection of destructive practices driven by convenience and profit — the three are working hard to live up to the Island Meadow name and grow some amazing food.

 

11) Molly Rockaman, 28
EarthDance FARMS

St. Louis, Mo. 

Molly Rockaman, a 28-year-old native Missourian, worked alongside sugarcane farmers in Fiji, rice farmers in Thailand and mushroom producers in Ghana before reclaiming St. Louis as her home. She co-founded EarthDance FARMS in 2008 with the initial aim of preserving Missouri's oldest organic farm. With the farm's 300 percent increase in production this year (due to more of the land being under cultivation), and 12 apprentices aspiring to careers in sustainable agriculture, EarthDance is not only preserving farmland — it's growing food and farmers. The farm's primary program is an organic farming apprenticeship program — combining field work, weekly enrichment sessions, field trips to local farms and selling at farmers markets into a season-long commitment to sustainable agriculture training.

Besides being a source of organic farming education, Rockaman's passion for music and the visual and performing arts comes through in EarthDance's mission, as the farm hosts concerts and open-studio artist sessions. One day she even hopes to create an artist-in-residence program on the farm, living out EarthDance's mantra of "Celebrating the Culture in Agriculture."

 

12) Daron "Farmer D" Joffe, 32
Farmer D Organics
Atlanta, Ga. 

South African-born Daron Joffe (who, in full disclosure, hosts the MNN video series In the Field) grew up in Atlanta and attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where his love of gardening sprouted during an apprenticeship at a local organic farm. After dropping out of college in 1995 and apprenticing at a biodynamic farm in Georgia, Joffe bought some land of his own back in Wisconsin. He ran a biodynamic farm, restaurant and education center there for several years, eventually moving west in 2000 to teach nutrition, organic farming and habitat restoration to troubled teens in San Francisco.

Joffe now has hubs in Atlanta — where he runs Farmer D Organics, serves on the board of Georgia Organics and helped start the organic farm at Serenbe — and in Riceboro, Ga., a small town south of Savannah where he runs a community-supported organic garden. At just 32, the entrepreneurial and well-traveled Joffe is an atypical farmer, as he likes to point out: "I live in the city. I travel more than I'm home. And I'm not 75 years old, wearing overalls with a piece of straw in my mouth."

 

13) Emily Jane Freed, 33
Jacobs Farm

Pescadero, Calif.

Emily Jane Freed is the assistant production manager at Jacobs Farm, where she's responsible for seven farms, including 250 acres of organic culinary herbs and edible flowers. She's the chair of the 2009 Hazon Food Conference and also served on the executive committee for the 2008 edition, where she chaired the Farmer's Connection/Sponsorship Committee, which highlighted farms and farmers from the greater Bay Area. 

In 2007 and 2008, Freed attended the ROI (Return on Investment) Global Summit in Jerusalem for 120 Young Jewish Innovators from around the world, and in 2007 she was named one of Heeb magazine's top 100 in the category of food. She's a board member of the University of California-Santa Cruz's Friends of the Farm & Garden, which is committed to community outreach, education and organic agricultural practices on the California Central Coast. 

 

14) Lyndon Hartz, 26
Hartz Produce

Wyoming, Ill. 

When Hartz Produce was founded in 2004, Lyndon Hartz initially farmed about one acre of ground that his grandpa owned. It grew to four acres the next year, and in 2006, he moved the farm closer to where he lived, so he rented ground and began attending the Peoria RiverFront Market and the Stark County Farmers Market. That fall, he took out a loan for 10.5 acres of his own. 

In 2007, Hartz began planting perennial crops like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and asparagus, and launched his own CSA program with 15 members. He also bought a Hoop House and started experimenting with winter gardening. In 2008, the CSA grew to 22 members and the farmers markets thrived. 

Hartz is a founding member of the Good Earth Food Alliance; the group has a 110-member CSA and sells to restaurants in the area. He continues to sell at farmers markets and also works with a local school district to provide fresh veggies with school lunches.

Hartz grows a wide range of crops, from the aforementioned fruits to almost any kind of vegetable: lettuces, spinach, red spinach, sweet corn, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, radish, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, chard — and the list goes on.

 

15) Page Atkinson, 27
16) Ian Ater, 26

17) Lucas Christenson, 24

Fledging Crow Vegetables

Keeseville, N.Y. 

Fledging Crow Vegetables is located in the Champlain Valley of upstate New York, but it owes a lot to a mountaintop in southeastern Ecuador. While working on a farm there during the winter of 2006-'07, Ian Ater and Paige Atkinson met Lucas Christenson, and eventually all three found themselves picking rocks out of newly tilled land on 10 leased acres in Keeseville, N.Y., happily playing a part in the fast-developing local trend toward small, diversified farms.

The three amigos — who speak a lot of unnecessary Spanish on the farm (fueled, perhaps, by the 130 pounds of coffee beans that Atkinson and Christenson brought home from Ecuador this past winter) — are in their first season farming three acres of certified naturally grown vegetables for a 40-member CSA program; they also supply several restaurants in nearby Lake Placid, vend at three farmers markets (where their offerings include veggies along with pasture-raised pork, chickens and Thanksgiving turkeys), and sell their produce to local natural foods stores.

CSA memberships funded Fledging Crow's first year of equipment acquisitions, while the market season offers the farmers a steadier income. Hogs rotationally graze new land in one field, eating its quackgrass rhizomes so future crops can thrive there, and laying hens eat a cover crop and drop manure in another field to fertilize next year's garlic (and they lay eggs for the week!). 

Atkinson's, Ater's and Christenson's farming backgrounds are just as diverse as their veggie fields, including everything from draft horses to hand-dug garden beds to dairy cows. They stay busy and laugh a lot, with a sunset lake swim at the end of most days.

Photo (left to right): Christenson, Ater and Atkinson

 

18) Jacob Cowgill, 31 
19) Courtney Cowgill, 29

Prairie Heritage Farms

Conrad, Mont. 

Jacob and Courtney Cowgill are artists, writers and farmers born and raised on the shortgrass prairie of central Montana. They recently moved home to start their own farm in Conrad, where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains. Prior to coming home, Jacob spent a few seasons in north-central Montana working on a farm experimenting with dryland vegetables, and Courtney worked in the big city in western Montana for NewWest.net, an online journal she co-created. 

On their farm, they grow high-quality, nutritious, community-dense food, raising heritage and ancient grains and seeds, heirloom vegetables, and heritage turkeys. Their focus on older varieties of plants and animals helps protect the nation's genetic diversity and keeps the people's seeds and breeds alive and well.

 

20) Padraic MacLeish, 26
Stone Barns Center

Pocantico Hills, N.Y.

The Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture is an 80-acre, nonprofit farm serving as a beacon for local, sustainable agriculture just about an hour north of New York City. A legacy of the Rockefeller estate, Stone Barns has become a leading light in the slow-food movement both through its farm market and by hosting classes and lectures on a variety of farming subjects. In addition to its four-season vegetable production, the center raises several species of livestock, including chickens, sheep, pigs and bees. 

Padraic MacLeish, assistant livestock manager and beekeeper at Stone Barns, is a native of upstate New York. He worked at the Farmer's Museum in Cooperstown for eight years before attending Deep Springs College in Big Pine, Calif. Before MacLeish arrived at Stone Barns, he also worked at a dairy farm in New York, a cattle ranch in Nevada, taught horseback-riding lessons in California and attended the College of Alameda, where he received an associate's degree in automotive technology. In addition to his work tending the livestock, MacLeish has taught courses at Stone Barns such as "Beekeeping 101" and "ABCs in the Pasture: Honey."

 

21) Keith Forrester, 36
22) Jill Forrester, 33
Whitton Farms

Whitton, Ark.

Keith and Jill Forrester are the proud owners and farmers of Whitton Farms, located in the heart of Whitton, Ark., where they tend to 15 acres of produce, flowers, herbs, mushrooms and chickens when in full production. Their growing season is March through November, and they sell their produce at four regional farmers markets in addition to hosting a 200-member CSA program. The Forresters pride themselves on the use of sustainable farming methods and concentrate on heirloom vegetable gardening. Both Keith and Jill were public school teachers before leaving their careers to become specialty crop farmers.

For the last four years, the couple has built a booming small-scale farming operation from the ground up, and they say they're thrilled to be living the agrarian life. They're the 2008 and 2009 winners of the Edible Memphis Farmer of the Year Award and K8 Agricultural Leaders for 2008. Keith is a board member for theMemphis Farmers Market and the Arkansas Farmers Market Association; Jill uses what little free time she has for guest speaking at regional schools, garden clubs and philanthropic organizations. They both are strong advocates for small-scale farmers and the local food movement.

 

23) Willow Hein, 27
Honey in the Heart Farm

Nevada City, Calif. 

Honey in the Heart Farm began as a vision of community building and sustainable living. It's a one-acre farm, nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains just outside the town of Nevada City, Calif. 2009 is the first year the soil has been tilled and planted. The farm grows a diverse vegetable crop, from greens to squash to flowers. Additionally, the farm uses sustainable agricultural practices that are nourishing to the land as well as to the people who work on the farm.

Willow Hein has been farming for the last four years, beginning on a small homestead farm and vineyard in Northern California. She worked in Boulder, Utah, at Hell's Backbone Grill, a restaurant that grows its own produce at a nearby farm, and then moved to Santa Cruz to complete a six-month apprenticeship at UCSC'sCenter for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems. After the apprenticeship, she moved back to her native Nevada City and worked for a small family farm in the area, Riverhill Farm, before launching into her own project, Honey in the Heart.

 

24) Matthew Jose, 25
25) Tyler Henderson, 33

26) Laura Henderson, 30

Big City Farms
Urban Earth Indy
Indianapolis, Ind. 

Matthew Jose runs Big City Farms, an urban farm in downtown Indianapolis. He uses nearly an acre's worth of vacant lots to grow produce that's sold through a 25-member CSA program and to several local restaurants and stores. He got his first taste of farming after leaving college to tend livestock at a small farm in central Massachusetts. He returned to Indianapolis and began working for the Marion County Extension Service as an urban garden program assistant; while there, he created the Urban Farm Project, a city farming program that sought to educate youth and feed Indianapolis residents by cultivating vegetables on city lots. After a year of frustrating bureaucracy, Jose struck out on his own to form Big City Farms.

Tyler and Laura Henderson's first attempt at growing their own food came while living as house parents in a Butler University fraternity house. The couple kept a small garden and worm-composting bin and encouraged residents to compost and eat from the garden. In 2004, they moved to Europe, and their interest in finding creative ways to do intensive growing in small urban spaces grew into a passion. Upon returning to Indianapolis in 2006, they bought a home with a small yard and transformed nearly every inch of land into raised-bed vegetable, herb and perennial gardens. In their second year, they began selling or giving small amounts of their excess produce to nearby restaurants, shops and neighbors. The couple organized an egg-share pickup at their home with a farmer friend, and by the end of summer Laura was set to open the Indy Winter Farmers Market. The community support for the new market encouraged Laura and Tyler that Indianapolis was "hungry" for local food. In an effort to make edible gardens more visible, the couple formedUrban Earth Indy and partnered with Slow Food Indy and a restaurant, a specialty foods shop, a yoga studio and the Indiana Humanities Council to build, plant and maintain on-site "tasting gardens." 

When Tyler and Laura met Matthew Jose, he was looking for land for the Urban Farm Project. They loved the idea and gave him contacts for some empty lots in their neighborhood — located less than two miles from the center of downtown Indianapolis. When Jose decided to start Big City Farms, they called on other neighbors to offer empty lots for the urban CSA program and encouraged friends to become members; when Laura opened the Indy Winter Farmers Market in November 2008, Jose jumped in as her right-hand man. The three look forward to working together to encourage people to eat local, grow their own food and in the process nurture a relationship with food that's better for themselves, for the community and for the planet. 

 

27) Rachel Kaplan, 31
Gaia Gardens

Decatur, Ga.

Rachel Tali Kaplan is the farm manager at Georgia's Gaia Gardens, a two-acre urban, organic vegetable, fruit and flower farm just outside the city of Atlanta. This native Mainer grew her first vegetable on the banks of the Hollenbeck River as an ADAMAH fellow, a leadership development program for Jewish young adults, at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center.  A graduate of Grinnell College and the Beit Midrash program for Talmud study at the Drisha Institute for Jewish Studies, Kaplan has taught at summer camps in Maine and Canada, Hebrew school programs in Iowa and New Jersey, and on farm educational programs in Connecticut and Georgia. With four seasons of farming under her belt, a decade of informal teaching and three years of nonprofit management, she loves collaborating with fellow council members of the Jewish Farm School to develop curriculum and create programming that promotes sustainable agriculture and supports just food systems rooted in Jewish tradition.

 

28) Benjamin Shute, 31
29) Miriam Latzer, 33

Hearty Roots Community Farm

Tivoli, N.Y. 

Hearty Roots was founded in New York's Hudson River Valley in 2004 on a shoestring by young farmers who didn't own land. The first season's 30 CSA members threw their trust into the fledgling operation, providing enough money to cover the cost of seeds, hand tools and deer fencing for the first year. That, along with the help of many friends and neighbors, was enough to get things started on three-quarters of an acre.

Five years later, the farm serves about a thousand households through a combination of CSA shares, farm stand and restaurant sales, and a program that provides fresh vegetables to five soup kitchens and food pantries in Brooklyn. The farmers still rent their land, about 30 acres, but the farm's increased budget has allowed for the purchase of tractors, delivery vehicles, equipment, greenhouses and the hiring of a 10-person crew in the summer.

Benjamin Shute and Miriam Latzer currently run Hearty Roots, both having grown up in non-farming families in New York City and New Jersey, respectively. They learned their craft by working for other farmers and through plenty of trial and error.

 

30) Jarrett Man, 26
Stone Soup Farm

Belchertown, Mass.

In 2008, Jarrett Man started Stone Soup Farm, an eight-acre vegetable, fruit and chicken operation geared around community and environmental sustainability. Stone Soup serves out farmshares to more than 200 families as well as selling at markets, a roadside stand and to restaurants. Six people work the farm, using chemical-free practices that go well beyond "organic" standards, which allow processed waste products from factories and mined chemicals. These six folks live on and comprise the core crew of the farm, which serves as a hub for a small, ecologically oriented community. 

 

31) Daniel Parson, 35
Parson Produce
Clinton, S.C.

Daniel Parson is in his 12th season of organic growing. He started in 1998 at Wildflower Organics in Dawsonville, Ga., where he worked for four years. Next, he managed the Clemson University student organic farm for two years, and operated Gaia Gardens in Decatur, Ga., for five years.

This year marks the start of a new venture —Parson Produce — featuring a CSA program and market garden near Clinton, S.C. Parson has two degrees from Clemson, a B.S. in biological sciences and an M.S. in plant and environmental science, focusing on cover crops and organic systems. He has presented on various organic topics to many state and regional groups, includingSouthern SAWG and Georgia Organics. Recently, he won the 2009 Georgia Organics Land Steward of the Year Award, which was presented at its conference in Decatur.

 

32) Pete Rasmussen, 26
Sandhill Farms

Eden, Utah

Pete Rasmussen is a garlic farmer at Sandhill Farms in the mountains of northern Utah, where he expresses his infatuation with garlic by growing more than 25 different varietals of the unique, colorful and pungent herb.

Sandhill Farms is supported by the local community through a CSA program. Garlactica, the Sandhill Farms annual garlic festival, celebrates ecological farming practices, community, food and great garlic. During the summer, Rasmussen manages the bulbs and beets in Eden, Utah, and come winter, when the garlic sleeps, he teaches organic gardening and nutritional cooking at Maxwell Park International Academy in Oakland, Calif. 

 

33) Amy Rice-Jones, 27
Petaluma Bounty

Petaluma, Calif. 

Amy Rice-Jones grew up in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she learned from her mother about the cultivation of many things wild and domesticated. She left Colorado to attend college in Walla Walla, Wash., where her main nonacademic activity was managing the school's organic garden. After graduating, she worked for an environmental consulting firm doing watershed restoration work. During that time, Rice-Jones gardened on her own and eventually was offered a piece of land to farm with a friend. They started a half-acre market garden together and sold produce at the farmers market and to local restaurants. This experience led Rice-Jones to UCSC's agroecology apprenticeship program, where she apprenticed for six months. She enjoyed the apprenticeship so much that she applied to be the assistant farm manager for the following season. 

In November 2007, Rice-Jones started the development of an educational farm forPetaluma Bounty, a nonprofit in Petaluma, Calif., that strives to make healthy, fresh food available to everyone. She spent the first season at the Bounty Farm, clearing the land of wooden shacks full of trash and building the infrastructure to grow vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruit for the Petaluma community. Growing on just half an acre, the farm supplied produce to the low-income CSA business for 40 families, five restaurants in Petaluma, a farmers market and flowers to nine local businesses. Rice-Jones also taught classes to local high schools in sustainable agriculture and hosted several workshops for the general public. In 2009, with the help of a volunteer crew, she's planted more than 100 fruit trees, put in a beneficial hedgerow, and has begun to expand production of vegetables, herbs and flowers onto another acre.

 

34) Robert Servine, 36
35) Sonya Servine, 32

Good Karma Farm

Roy, Wash. 

Good Karma Farm is a small family farm in Roy, Wash., started by Seattle native Robert Servine and his wife, Sonya, who's originally from Australia. The farm seeks to be as ecologically and socially sustainable as possible, and was founded on the basis of the Buddhist principle of "Right Livelihood," with the aim of providing healthy and delicious food for people while also making a positive impact on the planet. Robert and Sonya, both India-trained yoga teachers, don't use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or slaughterhouse byproducts. Instead, they make their own fertilizer and compost using naturally available ingredients. They provide a wide variety of high-quality fresh vegetables and vegetable starts, with many heirloom varieties and specialty crops.

 

36) Anna Stevenson, 27
ADAMAH

Falls Village, Conn. 

Anna Stevenson is the farm manager at ADAMAH, a Jewish farming program in Falls Village, Conn. After graduating from Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, she lived in New York City for three years, and got involved with CSAs and farmers markets, but still felt that the farming should be left to the farmers. 

She then spent a summer on a farm and realized not only that she loved it, but that she (city girl) too could be a farmer, and that farming met all her criteria for the perfect job and lifestyle: being healthy and strong, being outside and connected to the cycles of seasons and growing things, and making the world a better place by helping to change the face of the American food system. She plans to start a CSA farm with her soon-to-be husband, Naftali Hanau, in Rochester, N.Y., next year.

 

37) Wes Swancy, 37 
38) Charlotte Swancy, 37

Riverview Farms

Ranger, Ga.

Riverview Farms is a certified organic family farm on 200 acres in the beautiful Appalachian foothills of northwest Georgia. In the fertile bottomlands of the Coosawattee River west of Carter's Lake, two generations of the Swancy family (Carter and Beverly Swancy purchased the farm in 1975; their three grown sons — including Wes and his wife, Charlotte — now work the farm as well) gently cultivate certified organic vegetables, Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef.

One of the oldest, and largest, certified organic farms in the state, Riverview Farms' goal is to work with the environment to enliven its land through the mutually supported functions of soil, grasses and animals as it produces organic vegetables and meats. With detailed attention to soil quality, animal husbandry, grass production and crop diversity, these methods surpass organic certification requirements.

 

39) Rebecca Terk, 35
Flying Tomato Farm
Vermillion, S.D.

Rebecca Terk's Flying Tomato Farm is a small (non-certified, but using organic and sustainable practices) diversified vegetable growing operation. Her customers are all local — she grows for market, for her CSA and for herself. She also practices food preservation — canning, freezing, pickling and fermenting — and teaches other people to grow and preserve as well. She's been president of the Vermillion Area Farmers Market Board for six years, and is co-creator and co-coordinator of the Vermillion Community Garden Project. 

Terk grew up in Middlebury, Vt., and moved to South Dakota in 1993 to finish her B.A. in English. Later, she went on to earn an M.A. in English and M.A. in history, all from the University of South Dakota. She's worked on organic farms in Vermont and South Dakota, and spent a couple years working at Vermont Valley Community Farm/CSA (also certified organic) outside Madison, Wisc., picking beans as sandhill cranes flew overhead, farm-sitting and sometimes simply wandering out into the fields to gather a basket of the freshest veggies for dinner.

For Terk, it's about good food — and she says fresh, local and sustainable food is the best there is. It's also about a balance between working with her brain and working with her hands, and about fostering a sense of community at the community garden and farmers market.

 

40) Severine von Tscharner Fleming, 28
Smithereen Farm + Special Produce

Tivoli, N.Y. 

Severine von Tscharner Fleming is an organizer, filmmaker and farmer. She's the director of theGreenhorns, a small nonprofit based in New York's Hudson Valley. The Greenhorns is a nonprofit network of collaborators working to promote, recruit and support young farmers in America. They run events, a radio show, a wiki-based guidebook, a wildly popular blog and more. 

Apart from the Greenhorns, Fleming runsSmithereen Farm + Special Produce, where she raises rabbits, pigs, chickens, ducks, heirloom fruits and 2.6 acres of veggies. Major cash crops include meat, marjoram, pea shoots and rare lettuces.

 

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