When Terra and Mike Brownback purchased their countryside farm along with an old, rundown farmhouse in 1978, they had no idea that their little dream would become one of the most prominent and successful organic farms in Central Pennsylvania. With big dreams and a little savings, the suburban kids embarked on a mission to make their own small imprint on the future of sustainable agriculture. Included with their 56 acres in Loysville, Perry County, was an 1880 farmhouse in desperate need of a makeover to even make it livable. “Our house was in such bad shape. The windows were even broken out,” says Terra Brownback.
Thirty-seven years of blood, sweat and tears put into fixing up their home, learning how to farm and purchasing additional adjacent acreage have truly paid off. The Brownback’s now run Spiral Path Farm, a 255-acre farm that is home to a 20-year-old, 2,300-member CSA. It is a USDA Organic-certified producer for local farmers markets and a collection of regional organic wholesale warehouses.
Dave and Cathy Hume are the green thumbs behind Tampa’s Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm.
Like the name suggests, the goods produced on this farm are grown hydroponically and, as an added bonus, organically.
This locally sustainable farm is free from toxic pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, hormones, or antibiotics. Owners David and Cathy Hume recognize the importance of growing fresh, local produce and champion the idea of sustainability on their hydroponic farm.
In 1992, 69-year old Carol Ann Sayle and her husband of 47 years, 65-year old Larry Butler, were fortunate enough, through owner financing, to buy five acres and a declining historic house in East Austin, TX, which, with a farm that they own in Gause farm, became Boggy Creek Farm, named after the creek/ditch across the street. Vegetables and fruit are grown on about 2.5 acres, with the remaining 2.5 acres being used for the shed/pole barn and parking space.
“Surrounded by housing subdivisions, schools, and commercial enterprises, which have been built on land once part of the farm, our Austin farm has become one of the few truly urban farms in the nation,” Carol Ann remarks.
Larry Jacobs, a visionary from California, pioneered a new form of agriculture three decades ago that demonstrated to skeptics food could be cultivated profitably without the use of farming chemicals and pesticides. He went on to found the Del Cabo Cooperative in Mexico, which continues to assist indigenous farmers in growing and selling their produce at a price that creates a sustainable livelihood for their families.
In part one of a two-part interview with Seedstock.com, Larry Jacobs, NRDC’s 2013 Growing Green Award winner, explains why he chose in 1980 to make the switch to organic farming. This occurred at a time when U.S. farmers who experimented with organic farming methods were not even on the radar screen, and were often considered residents of “Kookville,” Jacobs says.
“Our idea is that sustainable is renewable and so we’re in the solar business because basically the ranch is a big solar panel that we use to harvest sunshine and turn into grass that we turn into beef. We also want to make farming attractive to the next generation because if the next generation isn’t attracted to it then it isn’t sustainable.”-Keith Lankister, Bar Double L Beef
Wendi Lankister met her husband Keith while studying ranch management in college. Keith Lankister was studying to be a farrier. The couple found they shared a desire to start their own sustainable cattle ranch. After twelve years of working on ranches around the west gaining valuable insight into the processes of raising livestock, the Lankisters settled just outside Glenrock, Wyoming with their three daughters. Today, the Bar Double L Beef ranch is a profitable adventure in homeschooling, healthy living and grass fed certified organic cattle.
When landscape architect Lisa Jaroch decided to leave her job designing parks and greenways at Hamilton Anderson, a prestigious Detroit architecture firm, she was ready to move in an entirely new direction.
A hands-on landscape designer, she had always possessed a green thumb and a passion for sustainability – interests that led her to pursue a new life as an organic farmer.
“This is my encore career,” she says. “It brings everything together for me.”
Jaroch left her job in 2011 to pursue certification through Michigan State University’s 9-month Organic Farmer Training Program (OFTP) program at the Student Organic Farm. The 10-acre farm doubles as a hands-on learning laboratory and a local food producer, offering a 48-week CSA, a 7-month campus farm stand, and supplies MSU dining halls with fresh produce.
When high-school sweethearts Matt and Carissa Visser left Michigan in the mid-nineties to attend college in Oregon, they never dreamed they would eventually return to Michigan to start a small-scale organic farm.
But in 2009, that’s exactly what they did.
“We simultaneously came to a point in our lives where we were looking for a new direction,” says Carissa. “We wanted to find a career in which we could own our own business, work together, and feel good about our jobs.”
During this time of year, Rising River Farm’s namesake, the Chehalis River, flows fast and steady, and even though the rainy weather makes it seem that spring is months away, Jennifer Belknap is itching to get outside. Even after 15 years of co-running Rochester, WA-based Rising River Farm with her husband, Jim McGinn, she is still anxious to begin planting the seeds that usher in another season.
Rising River Farm began in 1994 when Jim and two friends started a three-acre community supported agriculture (CSA) farm on land leased from Betsie DeWreede of Independence Valley Farm, located just outside of Rochester, Washington.
The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) Organic Farmer of the Year award has been a long time in the making for Johnson Farms of Madison, South Dakota. Charlie Johnson and his brother Allan, along with their cousin Aaron and a handful of farm laborers, manage 2,800 acres of South Dakota farmland growing the ingredients for organic animal feed. On his way to pick up the award, Charlie Johnson shared a few insights into organic farming from the ‘long haul’ perspective.
It was Charlie and Allan’s father who started the farm in Madison. “My dad was a different kind of character,” explains Johnson. “He was kinda half hippie half profit.” Bernard Johnson had toyed around with the idea of chemical free farming for decades. He converted to a 100 percent organic production in 1976, years before the organic movement really began the paradigm shift from fringe obscurity to national awareness.
First Time Farmers in Hopewell, NJ Embrace Unique Business Model, Hope to Grow Sustainable Farm MovementFebruary 25, 2013 | Missy Smith
Like many people jumping aboard the local food revolution, Robin and Jon McConaughy’s sustainable farming journey all started with an article that took a peek behind the conventional farming curtain. Ten years ago, as Robin McConaughy was flipping through the New York Times’ Sunday newspaper, she came across Michael Pollan’s article “Power Steer”, which chronicled the life of a conventionally raised cow from birth to dinner table.
“It disgusted me. It was such an eye opener,” reflects McConaughy, who says that neither she nor her husband have farming backgrounds. “I actually thought people farmed on green fields. I never [considered] what the meat from the supermarket actually was.” Already having a desire to own some land where their now 10- and 12-year-old boys could grow up forming a first-hand understanding of nature, McConaughy and her husband Jon found Pollan’s belly-turning piece to be the final push in a healthy, sustainable direction.
In 2003, the McConaughys purchased their 60-acre farm in Hopewell Township, N.J., and got to work raising some animals for their family’s consumption.
When Bill and Karla Chambers founded Stahlbush Island Farms in 1985, their goal was to not only grow certified organic produce but also to integrate sustainability into all aspects of their operation. In 1997, Stahlbush Island Farms was certified sustainable by Food Alliance (FA).
“Sustainability is a journey, not an end point,” says Stahlbush Island Farms marketing executive Emily J. Hall. “It’s about having an ongoing philosophy regarding how you operate as a company, and making the right choices every day.”
At Peaceful Belly, an urban farm just eleven miles outside Boise, it’s all about locally produced healthy food, organic crop variety and a sustainable local culture. The farm is run by Josie Erskine, her husband Clay and a group of willing volunteers who work the 70 acre parcel nestled between two foothills in the Dry Creek Valley. The urban farm is a labor of love and an important source of food in the local community.
In recent years farmland has disappeared from the Boise outlying area due to urban sprawl, including one large farm that was sold and turned into apartment buildings. Saving and working farmland in a sustainable manner is very important at Peaceful Belly Farm which is the largest contiguous farmland left in the area.
While interest in local and organic food was once dismissed as a passing trend, it seems that consumer demand is only steadily increasing, to the point where demand for organic food is now growing faster than the domestic supply. Luckily, we are also seeing a burgeoning movement for sustainable agriculture, including in urban areas where local access to such foods can be scarce. Clear Creek Organics, a first generation urban farm located in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, is one example of this growing movement. Stephen and Lauren Cochenour began Clear Creek Organics out of a desire to provide local and organic food for their surrounding community.
Neither Stephen nor Lauren come from farming backgrounds. When asked about what initially sparked his interest in farming, Stephen laughed, saying, “It’s a bit ironic, as I grew up in Wisconsin and it wasn’t until I moved to Colorado that I realized I wanted to grow food for people.