Tag Archives: growing

Hatching New Farmers at Grass + Grit Farm in New Paltz, New York

The owners of Grass + Grit Farm in New Paltz, New York, never imagined they’d pursue careers in farming. Instead, they pursued art, culinary arts, and architecture.

Today, Maddie Morley, Ben Roberts, and James Walton operate a small, sustainable farm that focuses on providing pasture-raised meat and eggs.

“It’s really hard work that’s never felt so good to do,” Walton says. “It’s extremely gratifying knowing what I’m doing is beneficial to society by providing nutritious and delicious food.”

Morley, Roberts, and Walton are able to get their farm off the ground as participants in the Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator program. Partially funded by Wells Fargo, the agricultural nonprofit Glynwood offers the program for newcomers who want to focus their work on food and sustainable farming. Through the program, they farm the land that Glynwood leases from Mohonk Preserve, use its equipment, and receive training on farm management.

New Farmers

The three didn’t grow up in farming families, but as adults they were all drawn to food and nutrition.

  • Walton, who previously worked in art galleries, started focusing on his own health and nutrition when his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer six years ago. He then started working at community gardens.
  • Morley was a vegetarian for 14 years and didn’t consider a career in agriculture until taking a college course in sustainability. After college, she participated in an apprenticeship focused on organic vegetable production.
  • Roberts grew up with a large family garden and an appreciation for hard work. He initially pursued architecture and then culinary school before deciding he wanted to learn more about where food comes from and how it’s produced.

But Walton, Morley, and Roberts — all in their 30s — had a desire to work with animals, so they applied to Glynwood’s Apprentice Program,   where they met. The 10-month program allows new farmers to get paid for their work (through an hourly wage and affordable housing) and learn about farming in the field and classroom. During their time there, they learned about managing a variety of livestock, managing a pasture, and operating farm equipment.


Agriculture harvesting  farmers market

Farming with More Assurance

After finishing the apprenticeship, the three joined Glynwood’s incubator program and started Grass + Grit Farm in December 2015. In the program, they attend workshops on topics such as building fences, maintaining tractors, building a business, and budgeting. Once they complete the incubator program, Glynwood will help them secure land through a network of landowners who lease their property to farmers looking for land.

“It provides a way to launch your business with less of a financial investment and risk,” Roberts says.

The farmers at Grass + Grit raise chickens, ducks, pigs, sheep, and goats, and sell most of their products directly to the public. The three of them split their time on the farm and supplement their income with part-time jobs. Morley works at a food packing company; Roberts works on a goat dairy farm; and Walton works in catering and at a vegetable farm.

They can remain on the Glynwood property for up to three years. The 323-acre property hosts one other farm and a compost company.

Support for Training Programs

Wells Fargo Foundation has supported Glynwood’s farmer training programs with a $150,000 Clean Technology and Innovation grant in 2014 and a $50,000 grant in 2016.

“We love their programs and share mutual goals of sustainability and job creation with Glynwood,” says Stephanie Rico, business initiatives consultant for Environmental Affairs. “Glynwood’s Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator program is a great model. It’s important to preserve land in the Hudson Valley and maintain its farming value.”

The nonprofit used some of the Wells Fargo funds to provide financial training for participants, says Liz Corio, Glynwood’s vice president of development. The group hired a consulting firm to provide business-related workshops and help with strategic planning.

“There’s a movement among young people to become food entrepreneurs because it’s a profession that combines their environmental ethics with a strong desire to return to the land,” Corio says. “These emerging farmers may not necessarily want to develop business skills, but it’s crucial to their long-term success.”

The Farmers’ Future

Grass + Grit Farm’s first animals arrived in January 2016, and the farmers began selling their meats and eggs in summer 2016.

“It’s a huge stress reliever that we didn’t have to shell out capital to start this,” Walton says. “We have minimal cash flow because many of the animals won’t be processed until the fall or winter. Without the incubator’s support, we’d be struggling and have to work longer hours at our other jobs. That sense of security allows us to make better and smarter decisions.”

Morley says, “For people like us who grew up in a city or the suburbs, it’s extremely important to have groups like Glynwood. Also, a lot of farmers are aging out, and their kids won’t necessarily take their place.”

Roberts concludes, “It’s been a challenging year but an exciting one. I feel like I’m exactly where I’m meant to be, doing what I’m meant to be doing.”

REAL School Gardens

Fresh air. Lifting rocks. Children getting in the dirt — with purpose!

Nearly 200 volunteers teamed up with the nonprofit REAL School Gardens to create a hands-on learning garden at John Quincy Adams Elementary School in one day. Volunteers prepared planting beds, installed fence posts and flagstone walkways, and topped a pergola.

Watch the garden come to life – real stories.

   Girl with Grub

The new garden helps teachers engage students and hands-on learning is so good for kids and their retention of new ideas. Make the classroom an outdoor classroom. REAL School Gardens creates learning gardens at low-income elementary schools and provides training to teachers so they can use the gardens for instruction and academic success.

Find a garden in your neighborhood!  Or contact your local school, they can use your energy and enthusiasm!


“Farm-to-Fork” movement

As the “farm-to-fork” movement continues to gain momentum in the restaurant scene, the owners of Girard Gourmet in San Diego dare to take the concept to the next level. Owners, Francois and Diane Goedhuys, own and operate their very own one acre farm in Julian, sourcing fresh produce to include stone fruit, banana squash and a variety of herbs, which they incorporate into their seasonal dishes and libations.

While many restaurants incorporate the “farm-to-table” approach by purchasing local ingredients, the restaurateurs of Girard Gourmet are actually growing their own, personalizing the process as they go. They also make better use of food waste by recycling all of their kitchen scraps back into the farm, furthering their specialized process.

Girard Gourmet has been featured in famed travel guide books, Lonely Planet and Frommer’s, as one of La Jolla’s “must-eat” destinations as well as publications to include National Geographic Traveler, San Diego Home and Garden and VIA Magazine. They have also been featured numerous times on local media and broadcast stations.

About Girard Gourmet: 

Girard Gourmet is a staple in the La Jolla, San Diego dining scene, having served savory dishes and sweet treats to San Diegans for nearly thirty years. Girard Gourmet specializes in European specialties ranging from delicious baked goods to fresh soups and salads to gourmet coffee and teas. Girard Gourmet is a full-service restaurant and catering business serving the San Diego and surrounding communities.

Girard Gourmet is known for its unique “farm-to-table” approach, which is unlike any other in San Diego. Owner, Francois Goedhuys, grew up on a small farm in Belgium where cultivating your own garden was a way of life. He was so inspired by this approach that he decided to open his very own sprawling one acre farm in Julian, California, where most of the produce for Giard Gourmet is sourced. The restaurant recycles all of the leftover kitchen scraps back into the farm, furthering their specialized process. 

Girard Gourmet has been featured in famed travel guide books, Lonely Planet and Frommer’s, as one of La Jolla’s “must-eat” destinations as well as publications to include National Geographic Traveler, San Diego Home and Garden and VIA Magazine. 

Easy to Grow Native Plants

Learn more about ‘Easy to Grow Native Plants’ at this class taught by Nancy McClenny, students can learn about native plants — including trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals — that are easy to grow in home gardens.

June 6-18, 7-9 p.m.  It’s a Free class.

Mountain View Public Library, 585 Franklin St., Mountain View.