40 farmers under 40, Nos. 21-30
Meet the new crop of American farmers — young and energetic idealists who are bringing local, sustainable food back to the table.
Tue, Jul 21, 2009 at 09:30 AM
21) Keith Forrester, 36
22) Jill Forrester, 33
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 the Memphis 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
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's Center 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
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 formed Urban 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
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 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
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.