News From the Farm | January 14, 2013

Each year, new energy arrives at Full Belly Farm in the form on our apprentices. They arrive when we need them the most – in the early part of May when we are bracing ourselves for the onslaught of summer, in September when the summer rush has left us tired and cranky, or in January when we are rested and need to be reenergized. This year, we have been blessed with a tremendously talented group of apprentices: Ingrid, Tyler, Becca, Jordan, and Tristan. They join the ranks of over 300 apprentices who have been a part of Full Belly Farm over the past 28 years. As one of the ‘farm kids,’ it is always fun to think back on the many apprentices who have left their mark on Full Belly – and to see where they are today.

Jack Hedin and Jenni McHugh were at Full Belly in the early 1990’s. I remember them as the best kind of storytellers, animated and creative. They spent hours telling my siblings and I stories of adventure, and I vividly remember Jack reading my older brother Amon and I the entire Lord of the Rings series. Jack and Jenni are now farming in Minnesota, creating their own adventure story. They farm a beautiful piece of land in the small town of Rushford with their three growing boys and every so often we hear tales of their great successes and challenges. Their farm, Featherstone Farm, has been hit with floods and droughts but continues to inspire a new generation of farmers.

Tom Zimmer and Susan Willsrud, like Jack and Jenni, came to Full Belly as a pair, and left with a daughter! Addie, now 15, helps Tom and Susan on their farm in Fairbanks, Alaska. Tom and Susan started a “fun committee” while they were at Full Belly, and created a games night, knitting nights, and made sure laughter was valued at our farm. They carried this same creative passion to their farm, the Calypso Farm and Ecology Center. Settled on a hill just outside of Fairbanks, their farm is a true education center for school children and potential farmers alike. They also have a CSA and provide Alaskan residents with wonderful produce for many weeks of the year.

Other former apprentices are farming in incredible locations- Mike Appel and Emily Oakley are in Oklahoma and are the only organic farm in their region. If you have friends in the Tulsa area, make sure they look up Three Springs Farms- they have a great CSA! Mike and Emily just expanded their farming family in November, a little girl who will surely grow up knowing her varieties of kale. In the off season (it gets too cold in Oklahoma to farm in the winter), Mike and Emily travel the country, lending information to farmers and gleaning new techniques to take back to their land. Alex Leibman left our farm a few years ago – he completed his apprenticeship term when he was just 20 years old. He is now a partner of an organic urban farm in Minneapolis called Stones Throw Urban Farm. Last year they grew over 30,000 lbs of food on 16 different city plots. This year they plan on expanding their CSA from 70 to 80 members and are in the process of building a bike-powered cultivator. Another former apprentice, Gwenael, is leading organic seed research and development at High Mowing Seeds in Vermont. Rachel Dixon and Ned Conwell just moved to Petaluma to begin farming a beautiful piece of sunny land. Nina Andres farms olives just down the road. Nolan, our most recent apprentice to leave, just landed an internship position at a cattle ranch in Montana. Others are farming in Washington, North Carolina, Vermont, Oregon, Japan, Germany, and in various regions of California.

The apprentices at Full Belly provide the farm with a real sense of motivation to continually improve our farm and farming practices. We share knowledge. We allow for mistakes. We experiment with new varieties, planting and harvesting techniques, and sales methods. All of these learning opportunities help our apprentices to leave Full Belly with a skill set that will hopefully allow them to start their own farm and continue to provide a place for new farmers to learn. If you are a former apprentice from Full Belly, we would love to hear from you!

— Hallie Muller

Hallie was born in the big farm house at Full Belly and currently serves as the Educational Coordinator for Full Belly Farm. To learn more about our educational programs, please email Hallie at

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