Greetings from Oregon as we wrap up what has been an incredible cross country road trip inspecting farms for the Real Organic Project.

The grass-roots of ROP have now spread to every corner of the country and there is no doubt in my mind that we are the future of organic!

I want to highlight one of the farms we visited that was particularly inspiring. We visited Savannah Flynn, a young farmer in Washington, and stood mouths agape looking out at her beautiful 2.5 acre mixed vegetable plot. She is a one-woman operation and next year is upscaling to 6 acres. Simply remarkable! She had a compelling story to tell as someone who was raised in poverty with a mother who knew how to live off the land. She started farming because it is what she knew and was motivated, respectably, “by fear” as she puts it.

rows of crops growing in soil in Everson Washington

“For me, as a young-ish woman most of the farm owners are males and all of my mentors have been males so I think breaking away from that and getting into not only a male-dominated field, but a laborious industry, was the scariest part because I didn’t know if I would be taken seriously.”

“It’s really easy to doubt yourself and your ability and compare yourself to others, but I truly believe if you are a determined human and have a passion for something, you can do it, whatever it is, and I chose farming.”

A few years ago I had a fear of abandoning my engineering studies to pursue agriculture, but I now feel more inspired than ever to start a farm.
Thank you Savannah!

Savannah in the field with her dog

Our generation is a passionate bunch, and we are looking to make a change, but the technology-oriented framework of our universities makes real organic farming, as a career, seem far-fetched. The irony is, soil-based farming represents society’s biggest opportunity for combating climate change – bigger than all of the wind turbines and solar panels combined!

In an Energy Utilization course I took at Dartmouth, we used a Global Calculator to examine the effects of specific systematic changes on global greenhouse gas emissions. One button contained a preset for a world with a better food system. We clicked on it and watched the trend-line predicting future atmospheric carbon plummet lower than we could induce with any other setting. At that moment, I thought to myself, agriculture here I come!

Ralf and Forrest wash vegetables at Flynn Farms in Washington

Forrest and Ralf washing butternut squash while inspecting Flynn Farm.

I was just lucky enough to be going to school in the region where the Real Organic Project movement was born. I remember curiously observing one of the original tractor rallies to “Keep the Soil in Organic” roll through town, not yet informed as to its purpose.

You see, my generation looks with favor upon the urban hipster who grows vegetables in a shipping container. As far as I was concerned, this seemed like a viable option. After a summer spent farming on Dartmouth’s Organic Farm, I knew that I liked soil-based farming for the nature-connected aspect of it, but I had no reason to believe it was more sustainable than hydroponics. Then I attended last spring’s Real Organic Symposium. I have never learned so much about one topic in a day. It was incredible.

Savannah Flynn with beets at Flynn Farms Everson Washington

For those of us committed to improving the world, there is a certain prestige that gets placed on careers like computer science, electrical engineering, mathematics, and all other STEM-based careers. But what I learned on the road is that real organic farming must be part of our envisioned healthy and sustainable future. For those that haven’t had this education, I strongly believe that the Real Organic Project can get us there.

Forrest and I heard the cry from just about every farmer we met across the country that they need help. They need hands on deck. They are short on labor and having a hard time finding anybody willing to work for them. Furthermore, many of the older farmers we met had concerns for the future of their heritage. They felt a sense of urgency in the quest to find someone to pass their land and knowledge down to. This should be exciting for the younger generation to hear. The bells of opportunity are ringing!

We simply need to be brave enough to heed the call!