In this era when consumers want to know how many “food miles” their carrots traveled and restaurant menus list the distance from farm to fork, restaurant owners are increasingly putting in their own farms on rooftops, abandoned lots and nearby agricultural plots.
The trend has caught on with high-end, Michelin-starred restaurants in California such as The French Laundry in Napa and Manresa in Los Gatos as well as more casual places, such as Pauline’s Pizzeria in San Francisco and the Fremont Diner in Sonoma.
The growing number of restaurant farms is welcome news to new farmers like Rose Robertson, 28, who, like many new farmers, is trained but without a plot of land to call her own. After interning for a year at a farm in Santa Barbara, Robertson knew she wanted to farm but also knew she did not want to be a cog in a large-scale farming operation. She worried that at a big farm, workers like her would end up, “spending your whole day picking beans,” she said. Read more
Ana Catalán may seem young, but don’t let this 23-year-old fool you; when it comes to farming, she’s wise beyond her years. As the youngest child and only daughter of María Catalán, matriarch and owner of Catalán Family Farm, Ana plays a crucial role in the workings of this Hollister-based organic farm.
“I am basically trained to run the business right alongside my mother,” she said on a recent Thursday at the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market, while waiting in line at the Blue Bottle kiosk for her second (or was it third?) soy latte of the day. Anna’s three older brothers all work for the farm as well—one manages restaurant relations and orders while the other two sell produce at farmers markets for a commission—but, as Ana sees it, “together, my mother and I are the brain of the business.”
Being the brain of the business generally means working seven days a week, either at a market, in the office, or around the 15-acre farm. It’s not a lifestyle Ana shares with many other people her age. “I honestly only have close friends, because they understand that my job consumes my life,” she said. Read more
With young people revolutionizing the good food movement, it’s slightly ironic that at 29, I’m farming on one of the oldest agricultural landmarks in Missouri. I first visited the Mueller Farm as a teenager, when my dad took me there to visit Al and Caroline Mueller, who had been working the land since FDR was president. Since I was his “vegetable-eating” kid who grew food in our backyard, my dad thought I might like to see a “bigger garden.” It seems only fitting that now I’m back, trying to help the Mueller’s legacy grow into even bigger “gardens” throughout St. Louis. Read more
As the average age of farmers in the U.S. continues to raise, young farmers are beginning to sprout up across the nation. The recent documentary GROW!, directed by Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson, showcases the resurgence of young organic farmers in the state of Georgia. The film highlights 20 individuals across 12 farms who have found their way back to the land, whether working on a family-owned farm, buying their own, or, in most cases, using another farmer’s land to grow food for their community. Read more
The hard-working young couple that runs Brookford Farm in Rollinsford, New Hampshire did not grow up farming. Luke and Catarina Mahoney are part of a generation of farmers raised in cities and suburbs that has returned to the land, not out of family duty, but because of their own desire to make a connection with the land. Read more
It’s not the first farmer apprenticeship program of its kind, but the University of Vermont’s upcoming curriculum aims to be just as revolutionary as its university counterparts. Farming apprenticeships at Michigan State and UC Santa Cruz, have already proven that college graduates are not only ready for intensive, professional training in sustainable agriculture, but are capable of turning their experiential education into sustainable jobs. Read more
Trading a comfortable job in a big city for a labor job on a small farm is no longer a novelty. I joined the trend this past season, leaving an editing job in Manhattan to intern at Waterpenny Farm, an ecological vegetable farm in rural Virginia. My intentions were simple: learn how to grow the food I spent half my paycheck on at Whole Foods. Read more
The story below, written by Makenna Goodman, is an excerpt adapted from Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists, a book by her mother, Katherine Leiner, that explores a sustainable food system through interviews with the movement’s practitioners themselves.
Growing up I had these artsy parents who served “thoughtful” food. At lunchtime I got my avocado and cheese whole-wheat sandwiches out of wax bags, while my friends were getting fun foods like Lunchables. That’s what I wanted—plastic food. I wanted to be like the rest of the kids–who wouldn’t? I grew up in the woods in Colorado, and while we had a vegetable garden, it was at high altitude and the soil was parched. Then, we moved to New York City. That change was a real shock to my system. For the next seven years, I barely survived science, played on soccer fields covered with syringes and trash, and dreamed about summer when I could go back to Colorado and raft down the Animas River. Read more
Kristin Kimball is an accidental agrarian. A reporter in her early thirties living in New York City, she fell for a farmer in upstate New York–the subject of a story she was writing–and then fell in love with farming with him at Essex Farm. She tells the story of leaving the city to grow food and more in her new book The Dirty Life, a compelling memoir that gives insight into the growing young farmer movement in America. Read more
Last week, 240 young farmers and their advocates gathered at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, New York to discuss the practicalities and the politics of being a new entrant agriculturist. This year’s event sold out quickly, leaving 100 people on the waiting list–a testament to the growing movement of those curious about or actively pursuing a life growing food to sell directly to the consumer. Read more