40 farmers under 40, Nos. 31-40
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
31) Daniel Parson, 35
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, including Southern 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
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
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 for Petaluma 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 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
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 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
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
Severine von Tscharner Fleming is an organizer, filmmaker and farmer. She's the director of the Greenhorns, 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 runs Smithereen 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.
Did we miss one? Enter a comment below on a farmer you think should have been nominated and we'll consider him or her as part of a future feature.
All photos are courtesy of the farmers pictured, unless specified otherwise below:
- Jason Mraz: ZUMA Press
- Molly Rockaman: Thomas Lampe
- Padraic MacLeish: Erica Harvey
- Wes and Charlotte Swancy (with Graham): T.C. Brodnax