sustainable agriculture practices
Brought together by a shared love of sustainable agriculture, Lars Prillaman and Leslie Randall launched 8.5-acre Green Gate Farms in the small, historic town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Prillaman and Randall see agriculture not as an efficiency and profit-maximizing endeavor, but as an intricate process guided by natural cycles, ethical responsibility, and community enrichment, and work hard to maintain a farm that realizes their vision of what agriculture should be.
That being said, these young, new farm owners have been tremendously successful for a first-year start-up.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about making money doing it,” says Prillaman, “If I didn’t make money doing it I wouldn’t be able to do it.”
Thus far, the pair runs a thriving CSA which currently has a wait-list for next season, sells to a popular local restaurant, has tables at two farmer’s markets, and has received accolades from established farmers who are impressed and astonished with their first year success.
Awareness of Environmental Impact, Embrace of Sustainability, Defines 4th Generation Deardorff Family FarmsAugust 5, 2013 | Noelle Swan
The Deardorff family has been in the produce business since 1937, helping local farmers in Venice, Hollywood, and Los Angeles distribute their produce. As the city of Los Angeles swelled in the early 1960’s, the Deardorffs followed many of their growers north to Ventura County and began to work the land themselves on their own 50-acre ranch. Since then Deardorff Family Farms has passed through four generations and grown immensely. Today, cousins Scott Deardorff, and Tom Deardorff II farm 2,000 acres of sustainably grown celery, tomatoes, greens, and mixed vegetables throughout Ventura County. They market their produce through wholesale distributors, at local markets, and directly to consumers.
Visiting Blue Moon Farm is a visual delight—an oasis of diverse organic vegetable production in a sprawling landscape otherwise filled with fields of conventionally grown corn and soybean. Long rows of kale, bok choy, and other greens dot the landscape while greenhouses filled with tomatoes and melons stand in stark contrast to the surrounding monoculture.
Jon Cherniss has been tending this land since 1997, finding ways of increasing profitability and longevity while maintaining a commitment to organic farming methods, which are often eschewed in favor of short-term gains in Central Illinois.
As a fourth generation farmer, Elaine Lemmon has a fond relationship with dirt. But growing up, she didn’t plan on becoming a farmer later in her life. When the real world called, she answered, studying anthropology and archeology at Penn State University. But, her studies would later steer her back to farming. “I soon got disenchanted with how science-for-profit really wasn’t good science,” says Lemmon. “The part of archeology I really loved was working outside and working in the soil.”
David Little of The Little Organic Farm in Petaluma, Calif. first began farming to help some childhood friends nearly 20 years ago. He had been working as a contractor and hated it so when his buddies inherited a couple ranches he jumped at the chance to head for the country and try something new. He stayed on for about a year before striking out on his own with a few acres of potatoes. Today, Little farms over 60 acres of land in plots scattered around Marin and Petaluma.
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.
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.