Growing Evan

Evan at the top of the ladder with Jamie and Jacob, River Farm Hoop House
Evan at the top of the ladder with Jamie and Jacob, River Farm Hoop House

 

Farms grow lots of things but nothing is more rewarding and lasting than the farmers they grow. For the past four years we’ve watched Evan flourish and evolve at Green Gate – from Greenhorn to Longhorn, from a passionate grower of vegetables to a leader of Central Texas young farmers.

Now, reluctantly, we must let him go. Indeed, Evan has given to us as much as we have given to him, and yet his time has come to sow seeds elsewhere. He’s off to our long-time partner, Sustainable Food Center, where we have no doubt he will continue what he does best – nourishing and inspiring the local food movement.

Evan came to Green Gate as a volunteer and in short order made his reputation as a young man possessed with unusual gifts: creative, funny, mature beyond his age, and, most of all, a likeability that is infectious.

When I asked our farm manager at the time, Mary Hillemeier, if we should hire him, her response was: “You better. He’s the real thing.”

That realness had come from starting his own farm in Portland as well as publishing a quirky yet heartfelt zine whose title — “Running with Pitchforks” – had given me some hesitation.

Run, Evan did, from day one. Whatever pitchfork we gave him – planting, harvesting, sales, web design, managing staff – he grabbed it with his signature enthusiasm. And when we gave him manure, he always chuckled and gladly turned it into compost.

When farming beats me down – too frequently I’m afraid to admit – I can always count on Evan to lighten up my day. Maybe it’s his Japanese genes, but he possesses a Zen-like quality. His mantra — “It’s all good” — somehow seems believable, and I’m grateful to have spent so many days – long hard days – at his side.

Punctual, reliable, professional. Evan’s qualities have been as dependable as his green pickup truck rolling through the gate each morning. But what really has set him apart is his taking ownership of this place. In a very real sense Evan does own a piece of this farm – he’s not only shaped its fields but the contours of its character, too. He’s done more than his part to make sure the gates of Green Gate stay open.

As he helped grow our farm, Evan grew in new ways himself. Getting out in front is never easy yet he’s left his bootprints everywhere. Texas Young Farmers Coalition, Moontower Food Coop, Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

Like those proverbial seeds cast far and wide, former Green Gate employees have put down roots in farming communities all across the country. Will Summers in New York. Catherine Doe and Jetson Brown in Alabama. Mary in California. The list goes on across a decade, but no one from Green Gate has invested so much in Central Texas.

Yes, Evan will be sorely missed around here. And yes, some people are destined to run with pitchforks. So keep running, Evan; sustainable farming has a lot more ground to cover.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing Farmer Jamie

Seven years ago, Jamie Newlin volunteered at our farm. Like most people who venture here, she was unhappy with her office job. A still small voice told her she needed to go outside and get her hands dirty.

Jamie listened. She acted. She changed her life.

And ours.

Changing career paths is always scary. You never know where it leads or how it will alter your lifestyle. Jamie’s parents had a similar itch for the country when she was a child. They left city jobs to try their hand at ranching. After a year or so, their neighbor gave them some harsh advice.

“I think you should head on back to the city,” he said.

And they did. Which might explain why Jamie took small steps at first. Indeed, volunteering at an urban vegetable farm seemed fairly harmless. A dose of dirt and her nature deficit would be cured. Little did she know that she was planting a seed that would grow the most unexpected fruit.

Today is Jamie’s last day at Green Gate Farms. Her journey from volunteer to workshare member to farm worker to farm manager is now taking its biggest leap yet – to Wisconsin and the start of her own farm with her partner Jacob.

Among the many crops that farmers raise, growing new farmers is the most rewarding. Yet it’s never easy watching them leave the land they tilled and the community they helped cultivate. We’ve had other employees who’ve become farmers but Jamie has been here so long and given so much that she feels like family.

Jamie was here in good times and bad. She’s farmed in droughts and floods, worked with bumper crops and busts. Those experiences have prepared her well for the challenges that come with growing food, whether in hot Texas or cold Wisconsin. But perhaps the most valuable skill she takes with her is working well with people. Over the years she has dealt with every customer situation imaginable and yet has always kept showing her beautiful smile. Keeping people happy – on the farm or off – can be the hardest work of all.

garlicplantingOne of my favorite photos from our farm is a group of volunteers planting garlic. Our first farm manager, Katherine (who is now a farmer in Alabama) is demonstrating how to space and bury the cloves. Jamie is there along the row with them, fourth from the left, and appears to be paying close attention. Her attention to details, her gift of organizing and analyzing, which she honed during her years working for HUD, has helped thin the chaos that used to thrive at Green Gate, along with the pig weed and the nut grass. All the documents and systems she has created will make life easier for future farm managers here.

As for Erin and me, life at Green Gate already seems harder without Jamie. We have a great replacement in Katie Tritsch but she’s been here only two weeks and Jamie is taking with her seven years of history. All parents feel this way at first. Employers, too. How could you leave after all this time. How will we manage without you?

jamieYet here, in this young vibrant couple, is the very proof that my own dream – of leaving the city and living off the land – has been inspiring and fruitful. Like that single garlic seed, it grows and cloves where ever it is planted.

As we speak, Jamie and Jacob are drying out our multiplying onions to plant in that northern soil. It’s a well-earned gift and one that, like their new pursuits, will do well and multiply into bounty.

Happy Farming.
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Farmer Evan

A recent transplant from the Pacific Northwest, Evan has been working on farms for the past 3 years. He was owner of Sasquatch Acre in Portland, OR, where he grew many kinds of fruits and vegetables and maintained a ragtag flock of laying hens. Prior to this, he apprenticed under a knowledgeable farm sensei at Backyard Bounty, also in Portland, OR.

In addition to loving the farm lifestyle, Evan enjoys being a father, creating mixed media art, and Podcasting at his farm website, Running With Pitchforks.

Farmer Jamie

Jamie began volunteering at the farm in 2008, after serving as a Workshare member for three seasons. Prior to coming on board as the farm’s co-manager, she taught English in Japan and Mexico, and most recently worked for the Austin Housing Authority. She loves the taste of fresh-picked okra, the smell of cut kale, and the community focus at Green Gate Farms.