The Becker family farm in Dyersville, Iowa, was founded by Christopher Becker and is now operated by his great-grandson, Jude, a graduate of Iowa State University. Jude Becker continues to observe his family's "traditional ways, heritage breeds of pigs, and a true zeal for stewardship of the land."
Jude sold his first certified organic crops in the local organic farmers market in 1997. Two years later, he obtained his first breeding stock, and was soon raising USDA-certified organic pigs. The 400-acre Becker farm uses organic feeds and straw coupled with pasture raising to produce about 6,000 pigs each year from traditional Chester White and Berkshire breeds.
"Our goal is to maximize the morality of our process," reads the Becker Lane Organic website. "Morality is kind of tongue-in-cheek, but it's the best word — our goal is to improve the health and wellness of our animals, staff and the environment. Those who share in our philosophy of artisan agriculture will be provided with truly nutritious food. This extends our effort of health giving to our customers."
A guiding principle at Becker Lane is the practice of good animal welfare. Pigs raised on the farm for organic meat have access to the outside world, participate in natural behaviors such as nesting and only eat organic feed grown on the farm.
Jude, driven by European methods of pastoral farming in a factory-farm-heavy area, was even invited to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show to discuss sustainable hog-farming practices on an episode that examined a 2008 California initiative promoting humane treatment of farm animals. Aside from his TV appearances, Jude is also active in promoting sustainable farming and animal welfare issues in his community and across the country.
12) Dan Heryer, 27
13) Brooke Salvaggio, 27
Kansas City, Mo.
After 18 years of Midwestern suburbia, a jaded Brooke Salvaggio left home in search of the meaning of life. She traveled throughout the United States and abroad in New Zealand, Peru, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean. To sustain her travels she worked on organic farms in exchange for room and board.
After years of endless oceans, fires, mountains and religions, Salvaggio realized that the meaning of life had always been right under her feet in the sacred soil of her homeland. She returned home to Kansas City in 2007 to grow food for herself and others. Today BADSEED Farm is an ever-growing community of plants, animals and people, including Salvaggio and her husband, Daniel Heryer, who helps with the farming.
BADSEED is an urban organic farm, homestead and downtown market celebrating local food, culture and community. On Salvaggio's and Heryer's two-acre backyard plot, they grow more than 125 varieties of heirloom vegetables, culinary herbs, fruits and edible flowers noted for their unique appearance and extraordinary flavor. They go beyond organic cultivation practices (including "no-till," extensive companion planting, and the integration of goats and chickens) to promote biodiversity, sustainability and an idealistic yet functional food-producing hub within metro Kansas City.
BADSEED holds a weekly farmers market every Friday at a downtown storefront, where Salvaggio and Heryer sell their own produce alongside other urban growers. They also teach "urban homesteading" classes on topics such as backyard farming, herbal medicine making, traditional canning and preserving, home brewing beer and more.
15) Taylor Meyer, 34
Brothers Nick and Taylor Meyer took over the family dairy farm in 2002. With family support they built a new milking facility and transitioned the herd to organic production. The farm, known as North Hardwick Dairy, has won several quality awards over the years, including the state of Vermont's "Highest Quality Milk Award" for the last five years in a row. The Meyer brothers credit their success to the practice of wide-swath mowing, strict protocols for calving and dry-off, and a top-notch work ethic they say comes naturally to a Vermont farm boy.
After attending the University of Vermont, Nick (with a degree in small business) and Taylor (a history degree) headed in different directions away from the farm where they grew up. Nick drove out west to Jackson Hole, Wyo., to be a snowmobile tour guide, and Taylor caught a train to New York City to work in video production. But they both soon realized that working the land and keeping the family farm alive was the most important thing to them, their parents and the community back home.
They set out with a 10-year goal to produce "totally neutral milk," meaning everything needed by the farm is also produced by the farm. Added in the past two years has been a wind turbine to produce electricity and a mini biodiesel plant to fuel the tractors. This year, the farm will be getting an oil press to extract oil from sunflowers, which will be turned into fuel; the byproduct meal will be used as a high-protein feed for the cows.
The Meyers are proud of the farm they manage, and they're also thankful to be members of Organic Valley Family of Farms, which sets milk at prices they call "fair and stable." The two brothers are pictured on the side of the Organic Valley New England Pastures milk carton.
Farm manager Anne Cure, along with her husband, Paul, and a crew of talented young farmers and interns, are behind Cure Organic Farm, an eight-acre farm outside of Boulder that grows more than 90 varieties of certified organic veggies, herbs and flowers that are distributed no farther than 50 miles from the farm via a CSA program, farmers markets and on-site farm stand. Produce from Cure Organic is also sold to restaurants in the Boulder area. Additionally, Cure Organic is home to several beehives, egg-laying free-range hens, and grass-fed sheep and pigs.
During summer months, the team at Cure Organic hosts a popular week-long Farm Kids' Camp, where children ages 6 to 9 are given the chance to get down and dirty on a working farm. Activities include planting, watering, harvesting and weeding crops; tending to the farm animals; and, of course, plenty of arts and crafts, sing alongs and story time.
Prior to her current farm, Anne, a deep believer in community involvement and sustainable farming methods, farmed at Full Circle Farm in Carnation, Washington, and at Colorado's Short Grass Farm and Hedgerow Farm (now Cure Organic).
17) Kirstin Yogg, 32
18) Amy Courtney, 35
19) Darryl Wong, 27
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Freewheelin' Farm began in 2002 on a half acre that had been abandoned by a larger farm operation. Today, the farm consists of nine acres where Kirstin Yogg, Darryl Wong and Amy Courtney grow more than 30 crops for 75 CSA members, local restaurants, farmers market and local schools. The past three years, Freewheelin' Farm has hosted Food What?!, a youth-empowerment program, to educate and encourage young adults through the practice of food production (and consumption).
Since the beginning, Freewheelin' Farm made it a policy to critically examine the resource consumption that inevitably is a part of growing food. In pursuit of sustainability and ecological consciousness, Freewheelin' works to decrease petroleum use on all aspects of the farm: from reusing old drip tape year after year, to building farm structures with reclaimed materials, and ultimately, per its namesake, delivering CSA shares by bicycle and trailer.
Courtney, Wong and Yogg are all graduates of the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems Apprenticeship Program at the University of California Santa Cruz. They're all passionate about growing food as well as living healthy lives. They enjoy many other pursuits outside of their farming interests, including cooking food, eating food, camping, swimming, surfing, dancing and traveling. Their partnership agreement includes making time for all partners to pursue other interests to keep their lifestyles enjoyable, their souls healthy and their passion for the farm alive.
Monte Skarsgard was born and raised in the Rio Grande River Valley town of Los Ranchos, N.M. After high school, he studied business economics at the University of California Santa Barbara. While working at a nursery there, he read about an organic training program in Santa Cruz, so after graduating and traveling throughout Central America studying Spanish, Skarsgard enrolled in the UCSC Farm Apprenticeship program in 2000. Although his original goal was to start an organic landscaping company, he was bitten by the produce bug after eating crops directly from the field.
In 2001, Skarsgard moved to Carnation, Wash., and worked on Jubilee Farm, which was servicing members via a CSA. He loved the idea of the CSA after working with it in Santa Cruz and Carnation, so it was a no-brainer for him to continue that work when he started his farm in New Mexico. The farmers markets weren't strong enough yet in New Mexico for Skarsgard to "quit his day job," which was his ultimate goal — to farm full time.
Skarsgard has since built a CSA of 1,800 members and has finally been able to quit his day job. Besides the crops that are grown at Los Poblanos Organics, the farm has morphed into a hub for artisan food producers in the area, selling organic jams, eggs, breads, honey, cheeses, peanut butters and nuts from around the diverse state.