Although Dru and Scott Ransdell each grew up in suburbia, they both learned an appreciation for nature at a young age—Dru at her grandparents’ old Connecticut farmhouse, and Scott in his Chicago backyard, where he pretended to drive an imaginary tractor and irrigated imaginary crops. From the time they met in California’s Sacramento Valley, they shared a dream of living off the land. In 2001, they acquired their own piece of land where they began to produce their own food through trial and error.
Nestled in the lush foothills of the Oregon Coast Range, Nehalem River Ranch is 100 acres of pasture and forest along the banks of the river from which it takes its name. The area is home to herds of elk and deer, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout and salmon, which migrate through the Nehalem River. In addition to managing the ranch’s domesticated species, the ranch’s owners, Hilary Foote and Jared Gardner, see care of the river and the riparian areas between the river and their pastures as central to their work as famers and stewards of this diverse and beautiful piece of land.
James Brewer raises Certified AWA laying hens at Brewer’s Farm in Greenwood, Mississippi. “I was raised on a farm,” he says, “and I have owned this land for seven years.” In addition to managing his flock of pasture-raised laying hens, James grows vegetables such as okra, peas, squash, tomatoes, and variety of greens at Brewer’s Farm for sale to the local community.
Jeanne and Jim Finch and their daughter, Maeve, raise Certified Grassfed by AWA beef cattle at Eco Valley Farm in Cattaraugus County, New York. Both Jim and Jeanne are first generation farmers: “We have always had a passion for farming and the life it builds,” says Jim. “We only started six short years ago; however, the more we grow, the more we want to grow, both as farmers and the lifestyle it brings.”
Kevin Massengill’s family has raised pigs in North Carolina for several generations. “We have been blessed to have been raised with the knowledge of where our food comes from,” he explains, “and to be mindful of good sustainability practices to be able to provide for future generations.” Kevin raises Certified AWA pigs with Gary Nord, Hannah Creek Pig Farm’s co-founder, on 80 acres of pasture and woodland, about 5 miles outside Four Oaks in Johnston County, North Carolina.
Armin and Amanda Lieth raise Certified AWA pigs at Beechrest Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Armin, a native of Germany, has a family heritage of farming that dates back over 400 years. In addition to his family’s farming history, Armin’s pasture-based farm management is influenced by his undergraduate degree in horticulture and his master’s degree in environmental science. Business entrepreneurs for the last 25 years, Armin and Amanda are now focused on sustainable, pasture-based farming at Beechcrest Farm.
Dwayne Hachman is the third generation to farm the 150 acres of land in Bruce County, Ontario, that originally came into the Hachman family in 1929. He raises sheep, goats, and pigs on pasture at Hillcrest Farm near Walkerton with his wife, Jennfier, and their three children, Kaylia, Kyle and Jessica.
While he was in school, Les Yates spent many enjoyable summers helping his grandparents on their farm in southwest Ontario, and subsequently spent most of his working career trying to figure out how to get back to the land. In 1993, Les and his wife, Chris, were finally able to purchase 327-acre Lemieux Creek Ranch in the Bulkley Valley in northwest British Columbia, named after Eric Lemieux, the first French Canadian to settle on the land in 1904.
Peter and Katherine Hampton raise Certified AWA laying hens on pasture at Stonefield Organic Farm in Trenton, Texas.
Although Hannah Sessions and Greg Bernhardt did not grow up in farming families, they were always drawn to the agrarian lifestyle because they enjoy physical labor and working with their hands. Also, “we felt like farming would also allow us more time together and with our kids,” explains Hannah. “It has turned out to be all of those things–and more.”