Today we’d like to introduce you to Rebecca Verm.
Rebecca, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up a curious child, always working with my hands and exploring the outdoors. As a young adult, I learned more towards academic pursuits, investing my time heavily in mathematics and philosophy. It wasn’t until I graduated during the 2009 recession and came to realize that the majority of philosophy majors were fated to the dollar signs of law school that I diverged once again. Taking a year sabbatical, rather than face imminent debt, I traveled through South America as a WWOOF’er working on a variety of farms to cover my expenses. Somewhere between reuniting with my childhood and engaging my philosophical curiosities, I fell in love with land and farming.
In the last decade, since returning from my travels, I’ve curated my own pick-your-own adventure novel of agriculture in the Gulf Coast. I worked for incredible farmers who are still mentors of mine to this day. I took continuing education courses in permaculture, organic gardening, ecology, and microbiology. I’ve worked farmers markets and helped organize agriculture-based community events and conferences. I ran my own urban farm for four years on the north-east side of Houston. The continuum of each of these experiences eventually led me to Blackwood Educational Land Institute where I currently work as their Farm Director. It also led me to the revival of my former farm business, Sown & Grown, as an educational resource for beginning farmers and enthusiasts.
When I’m not running the production and teaching farm at Blackwood, you can find me teaching classes on soil science and our world. It’s my current mission, via Sown & Grown, to intrigue my community, one experience at a time, with the magic of soil and how it directly impacts each of our lives every day.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road was neither smooth nor direct. Rather, it felt more like a spider web of confusion and misdirection. After multiple failures and slowly learning to head the advice of both mentors and contemporaries, I found a more focused path for myself that feels like success more so than anything I’ve accomplished previously.
That being said, the trajectory for young farmers in the Gulf Coast, who want to stay farming in the Gulf Coast, is neither straight nor narrow currently. From navigating local and state policies to negotiating business contracts, there’s many a talent a successful farmer must possess (in addition to the whole “farming thing”) in order to earn the adjective of “successful.” Now, couple those more typical business learning curves with the realities of Ike and Harvey -type learning hurdles… In today’s world, even the savviest and sophisticated farmer is guaranteed to be met with extraordinary challenges beyond their control.
I find encouragement, however, in my fellow young farmers and our mentors who champion the work of the next generations. And, on some level, we all understand that each season will become our next curriculum, no matter how experienced we are. In part, this is my inspiration for the redesign of Sown & Grown. Throughout my last few years, I’ve had the pleasure to meet and know some brilliant and inspiring farmers, artists, philosophers, ecologists, you name it, who work every day to inspire within their own communities. Individually, this task of navigating a very uncertain future feels incredibly daunting. Together, however, it not only feels possible, but imminent and necessary.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Sown & Grown story. Tell us more about the business.
Sown & Grown was initially the urban farm business I operated in north-east Houston from 2012-2016. Since then, Sown & Grown has developed into education and consulting business for young and emerging farmers. My mission is to offer a range of soil science, agriculture business, and regenerative farm management practice classes at a low or no-cost for the next generation of farmers. I am also currently working on a project to integrate interdisciplinary arts into my work with soil science.
Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
At any given moment, farmers may be the beneficiaries of favorable weather or they may become the victims of tremendous catastrophes. The thing is, probably both will happen within a year. Luck happens when a farmer’s preparedness meets their success with the weather.
- Website: sownandgrown.com
- Phone: 832-207-3200
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @sownandgrownwithlove
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SownAndGrownHTX/
Vince Blasco, Brendan Lekan