Meet the Modern Farmer: Wendy Johnson - Modern Farmer

Meet the Modern Farmer: Wendy Johnson

This former fashion blogger relocated from Los Angeles to Iowa to raise organic soy, corn, alfalfa, oats, barley, and grass-fed livestock.

Wendy Johnson of JÁ³ia Food Farm in Charles City, Iowa.
Photography Kathryn Gamble

Why would a fashion blogger consider relocating from Los Angeles to Iowa? “My grandmother died in 2009,” explains Wendy Johnson. “It made me think about the future of our family farm.”

A year later, Johnson convinced her surfer boyfriend (now husband) to trade the California coast for a landlocked sea of commodity crops. Soon thereafter, she talked her dad into letting her rent 42 of the operation’s 1,200 acres, where Johnson began raising soy and corn – plus alfalfa, oats, barley, and grass-fed livestock – following organic standards.

So far, so good: Already her father’s taken note of the price she commands for certified organic corn.

Johnson also appears on the cover of Women and the Land (Ice Cube Press, $25), a new book profiling 26 agricultural innovators – including several fellow members of the Practical Farmers of Iowa, a network of 3,000 Hawkeye State residents who “use practices that work with nature, not against it,” according to the 42-year-old. “We’re the minority. But it’s a growing sector – I like to be optimistic.”

Meanwhile, her dad remains skeptical. “I get it,” she says. “I’m a newbie. I’m a woman. I’m his daughter.” But surely a 70-something man is eager to hand over the reins. “Nope,” Johnson replies. “He doesn’t have any hobbies. Farming is his everything. He’ll be doing this forever.”

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