Meet the farmers

It takes a lot of work to grow this much food on just 7.5 acres.  Two farmer-owners, 3 farm managers and 5+ full-time workers are needed to grow food for 180 CSA members, 3 farmers’ markets and 4 health food stores.  We take pride in being a “farmworker-friendly” farm where workers are paid fairly, have adequate breaks and get other benefits, like plenty of veggies!  Below are the stories of workers this season on the farm.

Alyssa

Alyssa is the Head Farmer at Quincy St. 

Alyssa will take on the role of Head Farmer for 2017.  Alyssa managed our second farmsite in 2016 and worked full-time at Groundswell in 2015 as well.

Alyssa brings us excellent tractor skills, solid decision-making and crop knowledge, and great skill in training and inspiring farmworkers.  In 2016, she developed better systems for scheduling irrigation and fertilizer use at our second farmsite, resulting in much healthier crops compared to previous years.

Suzanne

Suzanne is the Farm Manager at Quincy St.

I grew up in Louisville, KY, went to college in Asheville, NC, and moved to Grand Rapids in 2015. After several years of growing vegetables at home, I started farming full-time at Groundswell in 2016. In the next few years I plan to start my own farm, but in the meantime I am very excited to return as farm manager at Groundswell. I get to work with a super fun crew of aspiring farmers, meet our awesome CSA members and loyal market customers, and grow delicious vegetables to feed our community. The work is hard, but I think it is some of the most rewarding and fulfilling work we can do. I hope to meet more of you this year at CSA, on the farm, or at one of our farmer’s markets!

Sarah

Sarah manages our Polk St. farm

Sarah is a West Michigan native with a degree in International Development. She has always loved nature and been an avid gardener, hiker, and adventurer. Sarah has come to see organic agriculture as the most sustainable form of farming, and as an important form of environmental activism. She is also passionate about healthy food, loves to cook, and plans to start her own organic farm someday.

As a returning farm worker, Sarah is excited to manage three acres at the Polk St. site, where sandier soils allow for different growing conditions than our main acreage. She is thrilled to begin a new season of hard work with new and returning coworkers, volunteers, and community members in order to bring you great-quality delicious produce!

 Teresa

Teresa is the field manager at Quincy St. and manages our market stall at Fulton St. Market in GR

I’m looking forward to being back at Groundswell!

 

 

 

 

 

Katie

Katie Brandt is co-owner of Groundswell Farm with her husband Tom Cary.

2014 katie n leland in leavesI’m looking forward to a winter of planning to make the farm better!  My favorite parts of being a farmer are working with our great farmworkers, reading seed catalogs, harvesting and driving the tractor.  It has been great to see our second farmsite transform into productive farmland and to learn which crops prosper there.  Every season, I hope for a bountiful harvest and NO FLOODS.  I also enjoy playing outside, reading books and playing with Leland, who will turn 5 in August.

I grew up on 80 acres of woods and wetlands and recognized a deep need for the country when I moved to Ann Arbor for college. This led me to work at farms in Tennessee, southern Michigan, Lansing, Grant and Jenison in summers, living in tents and camper-trailers. I had the city in the winter and vegetable farms in the summer. At one point, I worked at an environmental non-profit (WMEAC) which was a great opportunity, stimulating and really fun, but I was pulled back outdoors knowing just how much the farm life means to me.  In 2006, I started Groundswell Community Farm with Anna Hoekstra.

Tom

Tom Cary is co-owner of Groundswell Farm with his wife Katie Brandt.

2013 tom croppedAfter working for 13 years at WMEAC to promote local foods and sustainable farming, I really started getting my hands dirty in 2006 when I helped start a community garden and a small CSA.  Then I took over a poultry business while working at a farmstead bakery.  When Anna Hoeksra decided to travel the world and find a new home in 2009, I jumped at the chance to become a farmer at Groundswell.  The soil at this farm was so much fun to work–I joked that the weeds jumped out of the dirt as easily as the transplants jumped in!  I really like the big-picture aspects of farming and knowing that Groundswell veggies support the kind of food system I want to see take root throughout West Michigan.

I come to farm at Groundswell through a circuitous path. Having grown up in Grand Rapids with a passion to be a marine biologist, I found myself graduating from Hope with a BS in chemistry in 1989. From there I worked for a couple years as an environmental chemist to earn money for my next adventure – traveling the world. In June of 1992 a friend and I left for a trip that lasted 18 months, and took me through 11 countries in Europe as well as Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal in Africa. I returned from these exploits and began volunteering then eventually working for 13 years at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, which I left in October of 2007.

My passion for agriculture grew out of a personal interest in “economics as if people mattered.” That was foundation for a Masters thesis which created a conceptual model local food system for my neighborhood in Grand Rapids. That work along with others awareness resulted in the formation of the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, an initiative I helped form and direct for many years at WMEAC. I also worked on numerous education efforts around sustainable agriculture, including the Beginning Farmer Training class through which Katie and Anna decided to start a farm together. Working at Groundswell allows me to bring these ideals to life on the farm.

Jenna

Jenna Weiler manages the CSA distribution in Grand Rapids.

jenna smilingI’m a farmer at Groundswell part time, the rest of my week I am owner of Tater Tats.  I also spend some time cooking great local eats for Soup Group/Salad Club. I first got involved with Groundswell as a member, then as a working share, and finally as a farm worker. I am passionate about healthy food, farming and cooking. I would love to discuss new recipes with you and hear what dishes you’re making with your vegetables at the Holland pick up. I desire to live in a world where everyone has access to healthy food, where we cook together regularly, and we eat our groundswell vegetables with great friends, on a homemade table, underneath twinkle lights.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth Brubaker manages the CSA distribution in Holland,  plans farm events, and writes our newsletters. 

groundswellI met Anna and Katie when they were selling Heirloom tomatoes at the Holland Farmers Market during their first season. One sampling of those tomatoes, and I was hooked! I became a work share member the next year. About two years ago, I became a part time employee. During the last seven seasons, I have really enjoyed discovering different vegetables, exploring new recipes, and sharing my findings with my husband and 4 children.

I have also enjoyed the Groundswell community immensely. I am amazed by the dedication that Tom and Katie and my coworkers have to sustainability, caring for the earth, and to the community. This year, I have also been a Volunteer Coordinator, and I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with many of the members. It’s confirmed for me that Groundswell Community Farms is a wonderful experience from every perspective.

On that note – I’d love to meet even more of you! Check out the calendar online, and find a time to come to the farm. You might just find you enjoy it as much as I do!

Sara

Sara drives our 1950s Allis Chalmers G tractor and takes beautiful photos

Sara_with_arugula (1)Sara has a degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from UCLA and is an internationally published photographer. With a strong passion for animals and the environment, she is aware that a key component to truly creating a more sustainable world is in the food we eat and where it comes from. While she has never officially worked on an organic farm, she is quite excited at the opportunity to both learn and to help grow the movement of eating organic, local, and all around good food. Sara grew up in Jenison and has spent the last 19 years traveling, with much of that time spent in Los Angeles. She is excited to get back to her roots and get to work on the farm.

 

Kelsey

I’m a Grand Valley State University student majoring in Liberal Studies, emphasizing in Sustainable Agriculture and wildly passionate about organic farming. Nothing is more satisfying than feeling the light release of a carrot’s roots during harvest. I spent the 2016 farming season in Williams, Oregon working as a member of the Rogue Farm Corps, growing alongside the plants that I cultivated. Being a young, strong female farmer is my vocation, and I am pumped to continue to grow as a team member of the Groundswell Community Farm.

 

 

Isabel

I grew up in Grand Rapids spending lots of time outside exploring, gardening, and raising chickens. I now spend the school year studying Music and Hispanic Studies at Vassar College. I also work as an Education Intern with the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, an organic farm close to Vassar. Sustainability, nutrition, and food justice are very important to me, and I’m very excited to be working at Groundswell this season!

 

 

Stacey

Stacey is a health and wellness professional who enjoys good food and getting her hands dirty. Her passion for cooking with fresh produce, being outdoors, and going on new adventures has led her to her first year at Groundswell Farm for the 2017 growing season! In addition to the farm she is also working with Urban Roots in Grand Rapids as the health and wellness intern. She is excited to learn more about farming and work as a part of the Groundswell Farm team!

 

 

 

Steve

I am 26 years old, and just recently moved to Michigan with my wife Abby and dog Jax. For the past 4 years I served in the U.S. Military. After living in Texas for the past 4 years I am excited to pursue my dream of farming and participating in the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm Program. I enjoy backpacking, craft beer, travel and driving my Jeep Wrangler.

 

 

 

Shannon

I have always loved the outdoors and growing food from the tiny seeds to the glorious plants they turn into. My earliest memories of gardening are with my father and grandfather and I am thankful for the love of growing they have inspired in me. I have had many different jobs through out the years and enjoy challenging myself in new ways. I have been working as a massage therapist the past few years and am looking forward to using my hands for new skills and spending time in the sunshine. This will be my first year working at Groundswell and I look forward to spending my spring and summer outdoors, growing beautiful produce and learning to be a morning person. I enjoy traveling, making salsa in the summer, connecting with friends and antiquing.

 


Where are they now?

Anna

Anna Hoekstra was co-owner of Groundswell Farm from 2006 – 2009.
annaAnna has shaped Groundswell Farm from the start.  Her desire to farm in a way that does not negatively impact the earth and that fosters community is integral to Groundswell to this day.  She feels that, “CSA offers many local and global solutions to innumerable societal problems in a simple way- we grow healthy, chemical free food for friends and community members who live no more than 20 miles from our land.” In 2010, Anna travelled the world in search of a new home where the spirit of community was even more central to the mission of the farm.  She went to Chiapas, Mexico; LaDakh, India and then biked from Maine to Asheville, North Carolina.

Anna lived for several years at an intentional community in Asheville, North Carolina, called Gladheart Farm.  She is now living at another community in Oneonta, New York where she works in a cooperatively-managed deli and also has time to garden, teach, dance, travel and to be part of a community grounded in Christianity.

Chad Anderson (2009) Owns Green Wagon Farm in Ada with his wife Heather

Sarah Geurkink (2010 – 2012) Manages the University of Washington Farm in Seattle, WA

Ruby Miller (2010 – 2012) Starting a welding company in Pennsylvania

Colleen Synk (2012) Just recieved a masters in Food Policy at Johns Hopkins University

Jamie Wilbraham & Brad Smith (2013 – 2014) Own Full Hollow Farm in Belding, MI

Emily Garcia (2014 – 2016) Working in ministry & international aid

Zoe Post (2015) In Peace Corps in Paraguay

Stephanie Brooks (2015) Environmental education with students in Detroit

Jenna Weiler (2010 – 2015) Owns Tater Tats, a temporary vegetable tattoo business

Kat O’Hanlon (2015 – 2016) Farming in Ireland

Andrew Veurink (2016) Pursuing a career in social work

Jenny Beimers (2016) Busy raising a beautiful baby girl!

Jon Brand (2016) Working at Sawyer Nursery, Inc in Hudsonville, MI

 

Contact us if you’re a former farmworker who is doing something cool that you want to share!