Stone Barns Center is excited to announce the inaugural cohort of the Regenerative Farming Fellowship (RFF). Meet the farmers who have been accepted for the 2019-2020 Fellowship:
Drew is a vegetable farmer at Lifeline Produce in the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, an 80-acre diversified vegetable and livestock farm serving wholesale accounts, farmers markets, retailers and restaurants. He is also the co-founder and CEO of The Farmland Company, a community-based farmland investment company built by farmers, for farmers, which restores access to farmland for the next generation. After nearly a decade working in the resource conservation and rural development sector, Drew understands what it takes to implement long-term, landscape-level change and has intimate knowledge of complex organizational agreements that help farmers and local food systems become resilient and enduring community successes. He is at the front line fighting for farmland preservation, access to land for early-stage farmers, and farm-to-school programs, and believes that regenerative agriculture best reflects the path to restoring vibrant and enduring local food economies.
Damon co-owns Hoosier Grassfed Beef with his father and brother, where he manages 450 head of cattle with the goal of building healthy and productive soils through ruminant grazing. He also serves as training manager and crop monitor at DeSutter Farms, a family farm growing approximately 3,500 acres of row crops and alfalfa. Damon hopes to shift his farm toward the consumer side with a focus on growing food for people regeneratively, and using his cattle help reduce the need for tillage across his landscape. Damon grew up watching his father and grandfather farm with soil health as their guiding principle, and incorporates that inspiration into his own work. His goal is to rebuild soils and sequester carbon on his land through his farming practices, using farming to be a productive force in environmental progress. Damon would like to see policy makers take a stronger stand to support regenerative farming practices by incentivizing farmers to embrace practices like cover cropping. He is dedicated to the well-being of young people in his small-town community, and sees farming for the future as part of that mission.
Drew owns more than 1,500 acres on which he grazes 130 head of cattle and produces forage for his herd on 240 on those acres. His focus has been on restoring soil health and vitality, and protecting waterways after years of depletion through extractive farming practices on the land he now farms.
Farming and food forms an essential part of Drew’s approach to community, and he uses his own garden to feed neighbors and tend relationships.
Drew takes inspiration from his grandfather, who was a passionate conservationist, and his parents, who began using rotational grazing with their sheep and cattle in the 1980s.
Graham is a fourth-generation farmer and the sole proprietor of Nelson Farms, with 800 acres in corn and soybean production in Minnesota and Iowa. Graham handles all aspects of the business, from planting to marketing to picking rocks. Graham’s involvement with the commodity market gives him a deep understanding of how crop commodities and farming practices are influenced by market forces. Graham is eager to center soil health in his work, and to serve as a support system for others in his community looking to make the transition to more regenerative practices. He is interested in how even small changes can benefit the soil and food system, and plans to make changes in his operation that his son would be proud of, setting an example for future generations.
Cuba City, WI
Kelly is the herd manager at Placke Organic Acres, the dairy farm on which she grew up, operating on 240 acres in Southwest Wisconsin that has been certified organic since 1997. The farm’s 60-head herd of Jersey-cross dairy cows are fed a grain-free diet on 60 acres of rotationally grazed pastures and stored forage. In addition to milk, the farm also produces certified organic feed corn, wheat and hay. Kelly’s farming goals are directly connected to what happens in the dairy market. If that market continues to sink, she plans to begin breeding all of her dairy cows to beef genetics, and transition the herd to a grain-free beef herd as well as diversifying the farm by including multi-species grazing, agroforestry, and agrotourism. Kelly is passionate about advocating for small family farms, and will always strive to spread the joy of farming to others. She hosts farm tours on the farm to teach participants about grazing, and plans to start hosting workshops and school field trips in the near future.
Justin’s farming experience started when he was a freshman in high school and received a $500 grant from the North Dakota FFA Foundation to purchase a heifer. Caring for that heifer sparked a curiosity that led to his renting 40 acres of cropland as a high school junior. Today, the Zahradka farm consists of 154 cow/calf pairs, 19 ewes, 20 chickens, two donkeys, and 452 acres of wheat, soybeans, canola, peas, alfalfa, mixtures of hay, and cover crops. Livestock graze on 800 acres of perennial pasture during the summer and on cover crops when possible in the fall. Justin is eager to shore up his understanding of regenerative practices and engage with a community of farmers working toward these goals as well while moving away from the commodity marketplace where possible.
Justin is a board member for the Walsh County Three Rivers Soil Conservation District and Walsh County Farm Bureau, and coaches high school students for FFA contests. Justin and his wife Molly also produce a video blog called “Coop and Poop” to allow people an unvarnished look into agriculture.