40 farmers under 40: Readers' choice (31-40)
You nominated your favorite young farmers, and here they are: Forty of the nation's brightest green thumbs, quietly nurturing a food revolution from their own back yards.
Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 09:30 AM
31) Joe Schirmer, 37
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Joe Schirmer grew up in Santa Cruz and began working at Dirty Girl Produce in 1997, eventually buying the farm in 1999 from owners Ali Edwards and Jane Freedman (nicknamed "the dirty girls" by other local farmers).
A graduate of both University of California Santa Cruz and the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship Program, Schirmer worked on several farms before ending up back in Santa Cruz. He expanded the business from three to 12 acres, selling year-round at farmers markets and adding several items to the growing list, including strawberries and early girl dry-farmed tomatoes. He also sits on the board of directors for Center for Urban Education on Sustainable Agriculture, which runs the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and is current president of the board of directors for the Santa Cruz Community Farmers Markets.
32) Janice Marquardt, 25
33) Ryan Marquardt, 28
Both Ryan and Janice Marquardt grew up in Ames, Iowa, with suburban lifestyles and no agricultural backgrounds. They met when Janice was a freshman and Ryan was a junior in high school; after college Ryan wanted to return to the land, and earned his master's degree in sustainable agriculture as a way to figure out how to farm profitably and build something he could be proud of.
Their business, Wild Rose Pastures, was formed in March 2007; the couple bought a 40-acre farm north of Pella, Iowa, in December 2007. Wild Rose Pastures had a "prototype" year in 2007 while they rented land, and is currently in its second year of full production.
Ryan and Janice usually raise about 600 chickens and 150 turkeys on pasture over the summer, and have recently added a flock of about 50 layer hens to the mix. They have six ewes that will lamb next spring, adding lamb to their products next fall. They also intermittently sell rhubarb, mulberries, peaches and anything else extra the land produces. Ryan farms full-time and consults part-time with Practical Farmers of Iowa, and Janice is a design engineer at Vermeer Corporation (a large equipment manufacturer). Both Janice and Ryan keep fairly active blogs at Wild Rose Pastures and My Life as a Beginning Farmer, respectively.
34) Jai Kellum, 33
35) Joel Kellum, 34
Mineral Hill, Wis.
Joel and Jai Kellum began pursing their interest in organic vegetable farming in 1996 by becoming interns at Prairie Dock Farm in Watertown, Wis. Through the season the young couple began learning their strengths and weaknesses in the rugged terrain of farming. They continued their pursuit and understanding at Avalanche Organics from 1998 to 2007.
Since the Kellums' arrival in 2008, King's Hill Farm can guarantee members and customers that all produce and products are grown or collected on King's Hill farmland. Joel and Jai stand by the idea that a regular diet of seasonal foods and vegetables does more for developing minds and bodies than does an occasional purchase of organic spring mix.
Joel, a native of Caribou, Maine, has completed certification in advanced permaculture. With this knowledge, he'll undertake the task of designing the farm in accordance with the course's principles and guidelines. Jai, the farm's spiritual inspiration, recently received her teacher certification from Global Family Yoga, a school designed to support "balanced health, balanced perspective, and balanced mind." Jai also leads weekly yoga classes for the crew to keep everybody limber and at peace.
36) Evan Marks, 28
San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
When Evan Marks joined the Surfrider Foundation back in high school, the native Californian's long career as an environmentalist was already under way. He says it was this involvement that convinced him people have the ability to directly impact the environment by taking matters into their own hands.
He continued his advocacy while attending the University of California Santa Cruz, where he studied agroecology — the study of sustainable agriculture — with the goal of transforming modern agriculture through integrated organic systems management. Having worked extensively in California and Hawaii and internationally in Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Ghana and Nigeria, Marks acquired hands-on experience in the fields of ecological design and sustainable agriculture.
In 2008, Marks was given the chance to bring environmental education and awareness to Southern California with the development of the Ecology Center at South Coast Farms. Hoping to transform the facility into a regional hub for sustainability and green living, Marks and volunteers are actively recruiting members in hopes of promoting eco-consciousness across San Juan Capistrano and its neighboring communities.
37) Christy Raymond, 30
38) Chris Kantlehner, 26
White Barn Farm, an organic vegetable farm, was founded in 2008 by Christy Raymond on family land in Wrentham, Mass. A native of Rangeley, Maine, Raymond got into agriculture while working toward her bachelor's degree in sustainable development from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After graduating, she moved to Oregon and apprenticed at a small veggie farm, Spirit Gardens CSA, worked in the kitchen of a restaurant, and grew a home garden. In 2007, she traveled across Europe — Switzerland, Italy, Austria and France — taking part in the WWOOF (World Wild Opportunities on Organic Farms) program. She says this educational journey gave her the final boost of inspiration to open her own farm on family land in Wrentham.
Chris Kantlehner joined Raymond earlier this year to help start up a 50-member CSA program at White Barn Farm. Kantlehner, also a veteran of WWOOF, holds a bachelor's degree in liberal studies from Green Mountain College with a focus of agroecology, philosophy and English. He's worked on numerous farms across Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Connecticut, including holding a position as assistant grower at Stearns Farm CSA in Framingham.
39) Trent McNair, 40
40) Linda McNair, 41 (under 40 in spirit)
Trent and Linda McNair started Surf City Growers in Aptos, Calif., in the spring of 2005. After a combination of more than 25 years in the high-tech world, the couple had decided to make a lifestyle change. While Trent and Linda still do consulting on the side, their passion is now focused on helping families and schools eat healthier, supporting local organic farming and doing their part in saving the planet. "You only live once," Linda says, "so make it count."
Trent's and Linda's favorite part of running the organic nursery is hosting field trips, when they get to show kids how plants grow and where food comes from. "The kids' enthusiasm for the process made us realize that they can shift the way their families think about food," Linda says. As a result, Trent and Linda have expanded their business this year with a new product line called My First Organics — organic, educational seed-starting kits for families focused on garden favorites that kids love to eat. The seeds and soil are organic, and every component of the kit is recyclable, reusable or biodegradable. A percentage of each purchase goes toward a fund to provide public schools with My First Organics kits. Surf City Growers also offers them as a healthy, educational and eco-friendly fundraising alternative.
This winter, Trent and Linda are introducing My First Organics "curriculum" and "homeschool" kits. They're unique because they're for kids in kindergarten to second grade; most nutrition and agricultural lessons are not introduced until third grade.
"Through our own experience, if you teach kids early about the origins of healthy food, and why it's so good for them and the Earth, they will adopt those habits as they grow older," Linda says. "The kits give educators all the tools they need to teach science, environmentalism and nutrition all in one lesson plan. Plus, we'll give them the information they need to start and maintain a school or community garden."
- Looking for even more up-and-coming young farmers? See MNN's original 40 farmers under 40 roundup.
- Meet our resident under-40 agrarian, Daron "Farmer D" Joffe, who hosts the MNN original video series "In the Field with Farmer D."
- And if you'd like to make an early nomination for our 2010 edition, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy the farmers pictured unless otherwise noted below: