Year in Review: The Farmers and Food Folk We Met Along the Way - Modern Farmer

Year in Review: The Farmers and Food Folk We Met Along the Way

Here are five of the farmers, gardeners and food producers who struck a chord with readers this year.

Kadija Farah (left) and Ibado Mahmud (right) are Somali refugees who grow food as part of the Drinking Gourd Farms collective.
Photography by Callie Radke Stevens

The “Meet the Modern Farmer” profile series has been a staple of Modern Farmer for nearly a decade, and it’s one of our favorite things to work on. Why? Because it gives us a chance to talk to a variety of farmers, yes, but also all sorts of other people involved in the food system, from backyard gardeners to fisherfolk to innovators trying to solve tough problems with sustainable solutions.

Here are five of the  farmers, producers and gardeners who struck a chord with readers this year. Check out the full archive of Meet the Modern Farmer stories here.

The milkweed man on a quest to help monarch butterflies

We knew monarch butterflies rely on milkweed for survival, but we didn’t realize just how many people care about milkweed and are taking individual action to support butterfly populations in their own lives.

After seeing the lively discussion sparked by our profile of Steve Bushey, we know better. Bushey grew fascinated with native plant species in Maine more than 20 years ago, after moving to the region. He realized the ecological importance of milkweed, sometimes viewed as a pest plant, and turned to gathering seed pods and encouraging gardeners to plant the flower.

Scores of readers chimed in in the article comments to share stories of how they support milkweed plants and—by extension—monarch butterflies, from Nova Scotia to Florida to California and beyond. Check out the story and join in the discussion here.

The Alaskan brewers making sustainable beer in a remote city

Craft beer aficionados may be familiar with Alaskan Brewing, but this profile of brewery founders Marcy and Geoff Larson went beyond what’s on tap to shed light on the remarkable lengths to which the couple goes to build sustainability into their business.

Spurred by a desire to protect the delicate local ecosystem of remote Juneau, AK, the Larsons have effectively eliminated the majority of the waste that brewing creates, repurposing it back into the beer-making process using cleverly designed closed-loop systems to conserve and recycle resources and minimize their carbon footprint. Read about their story here.

The Indigenous engineer upcycling tequila waste into sustainable housing

Without Mother Earth, “we have nothing,” says Oaxacan engineer Martha Jimenez Cardoso, who internalized the values of sustainability growing up in a farming family in the small Indigenous village of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec Mixe.

As director of sustainability at Astral Tequila, Cardoso took on the problem of the abundant waste created as byproducts of the tequila distillation process, made up of liquid runoff and fibrous remnants of the agave piña. She helped to pioneer a solution that combines soil with waste byproducts to create adobe-style bricks, which are then donated to build homes for people in the surrounding communities. Read about her story here.

The refugee homesteaders cultivating backyards for food justice

“It’s important to grow food, no matter who you are,” says Ibado Mahmud, who helped start a Phoenix-based collective of backyard homestead gardeners with a mission to grow both food and justice. “Let’s go back to our ancestors and create our own food.”

Mahmud is among the intergenerational group of Black Muslim refugee mothers leading Drinking Gourd Farms, which sources produce from a string of urban gardens and distributes to families who lack the money or time to grow their own healthy food. It’s about sharing knowledge, supporting an urban community, and maybe someday expanding into a farm-size parcel of land. Read about their story here.

The women making waves in Maine’s tough lobster industry

From an early age, Krista Tripp knew she wanted to captain of her own lobster boat. “But, as a girl, my parents didn’t really take me seriously,” she says. Lobstering is a grueling, physical field that’s traditionally dominated by men—but women are increasingly carving out space on the water for themselves.

Our profile introduces some of those women, from 13-year-old aspiring lobsterwoman Marina Landrith to Heather Strout Thompson, who chose the sea over the blueberry fields. “I might not do things the exact way a man does things,” she says. “But I can get the job done.” Read the full story here.

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These five are just a few of the many people we’ve profiled in 2023, and over the preceding years, who are making unique contributions to the food system. To read more, check out the full archive of Meet the Modern Farmer stories here.

Do you know of someone we should feature in the new year, or are you curious about a topic we should explore in 2024? Let us know using this form.

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