As an amateur gardener, eater, and food activist, mostly green (see what I did there?) and with a relatively shallow comprehension of how complex our food system is, I was intimidated by the Ecological Farming Association’s annual EcoFarm convening.
Hosted by the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California, it was a mere bike ride away, so how I could I let my introvert self skip it? I couldn’t. I saddled up and made my way there, where I met met a lot of very welcoming, very hip hemp growers, food policy experts and livestock farmers in head-to-toe Patagonia and Carhartt.
Most importantly, I learned that there are a lot of badass ladies shaking things up across the entire food system. This year’s conference focused on regenerative agriculture, a holistic approach to farming that considers biodiversity and overall ecosystem health and carbon out of the air and back into the soil. And there are a lot of ladies leading the way.
For example, Amy Davis and Kaley Grimland from the US Department of Agriculture shared their expertise on farm loans, while women also led discussions on irrigation, land mediation practices, and everything in between.
I heard from women ranchers in California and Montana. Doniga Markegard (pictured) of Markegard Family Grass-fed, for example, raises beef, lamb, pork and dairy near San Francisco using a holistic approach to land management and health. She also wrote a book about it all, highlighting her badassery in animal tracking. And then there was Hilary Zaranek, who raises beef on Montana’s J Bar L Ranch. She focused her discussion on predator management, particularly wolves, and how she’s leading the charge in conservation. I mean, whoa. A lot happening.
Feature photo courtesy of Doniga Markegard.
Nicole is a relationship builder and storyteller, ready for adventure and excited to see and capture what makes the world unique. By day, she works with government, corporations and nonprofit organizations and has experience in communications and marketing, program and project management, and design and advocacy. Perhaps naively, she is most interested in social impact and making the world a better place, and is particularly interested in where our food comes from and how it brings us together. She’s also a proud feminist. Nicole has been with GMF since 2013, and is currently based in California with her family, where they spend time hiking, road tripping, visiting the farmers market, reading, and generally not sleeping enough.