Moved to answer a calling to help turn around our broken food system and reverse environmental damages, Missy Smith, Brett Ziegler and their children are embarking on a sustainable farming mission in Central Pennsylvania. Follow them as they start Barefoot Hill Farm, a journey that will begin with renovating an old farmhouse and revitalizing previously vacant farmland and will continue with growing and raising organic food, reaching out to their local communities to spread the healthy eating gospel and acting as good stewards to beautiful farmland. Missy will document the ups, the downs, the triumphs and the setbacks that come with starting a modern organic sustainable farm.
Several years ago, my fiancé Brett and I were up to our eyeballs in news articles and literature about how the food we were putting into our bodies was destroying our health. This drive to learn more about the journey our food was taking from farm to supermarket happened to ramp up around the time that we were getting weary from the daily grind.
Jake’s Country Meats is more than just a pig farm—it is a family legacy. After six generations of raising pigs in the Michigan countryside, the Robinson family has developed a special connection to the land and remains dedicated to their mission of bridging the gap between food production and consumption.
According to the Robinson’s youngest daughter Renee, her father, Nate Robinson, has pig farming “in his blood” and he does a top-notch job of raising his Heritage breed pigs on pasture.
Renee, who came back to work on the farm after earning a degree in Marketing from Western Michigan University, takes part in all aspects of the family business.
About ten years ago, a former country boy was sitting in his office at a successful engineering firm in Bethlehem, Pa., wondering what he was doing with his life. As he gazed out the window at a nearby farm, Nate Thomas became nostalgic for his childhood days on his parents’ Lancaster County farm, where he helped to raise animals and enjoyed nature and adventures through a young boy’s eyes.
During his seven years working in the real world, he became increasingly unsatisfied with his professional life. “Even though financially it was a very good decision, my soul wasn’t satisfied,” says Thomas, who broke away from the real world to run a farm on land adjacent to his parents’ farm to fulfill a desire to live sustainably and self sufficiently. The deliberately named Breakaway Farms represents Thomas’ resolute drive for personal freedom, self-sufficiency and a life more in line with what he experienced growing up.
The owners of Sun Aqua Farms began their hydroponics careers early in the field’s emergence. It was the 1990s, and Richard Bee, a mechanical engineer by trade, found the promise of growing produce with efficiency and speed intriguing. The lure of working with new technology tantalized him.
In 1993, Bee, along with his wife, Deidre, and stepson, Roger Harris, built a small greenhouse on land in Pennsylvania they acquired with savings and a small business loan. At first, they grew lettuce. “It was somewhat of a gamble and a leap of faith in the technology and practice of hydroponics,” said Sun Aqua Farms Food Safety Manager Josh Zieger.
John Clark grew up on his father’s dairy farm – Applecheek Farm of Hyde Park, Vermont – and began working on the farm full-time in 2005. Clark purchased the farm from his father three months ago, and is already diversifying and reengineering the operation. Applecheek Farm raises all kinds of livestock, from hogs to cows, while providing education and agricultural tourism. Clark focuses on sustainability and simplicity on the farm with big dreams for the future of his local food community.
I recently spoke with Clark about how the farm began, the sustainable practices that he uses and his future goals for a food hub on the farm.