Meet 2020 Future Organic Farmers Grant Recipient Audrey Jen!
While many people are drawn to agriculture because of a family background in farming, Audrey Jen was drawn into agriculture through her interest in science. The deal was sealed for Jen by hands-on experience farming organically for school.
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Jen had very little experience with agriculture or produce aside from what she saw in the grocery store. A biology class sparked her initial interest in growing; she had never before seen a seed grow to become the food that we see on our tables. Jen decided to pursue a degree in Plant and Environmental Sciences at Clemson University; she took classes, but she also sought a more holistic understanding of agriculture and wanted to get her hands in the dirt. An internship at Clemson Student Organic Farm allowed her to discover what it takes to farm organically. “It has been at the organic farm that I have developed a deep connection to and appreciation for produce and crops everywhere. There is something magical about literally harvesting the fruits of your labor; I nearly cried the first time I pulled a carrot from the ground.”
Since discovering her passion for the land, Jen has tackled all aspects of farming and can see the importance of farming organically. “After seeding open fields with cover crops like clover, barley, and buckwheat, I have seen firsthand the difference in soil fertility [with soil] that falls through my fingertips, compared to the soil at conventional farms. The label 'organic' is something to be immensely proud of." While it’s hard work, it pays off for Jen when she directly connects with customers who are interested in and deeply value organic food and the work that she does.
Jen hopes her story of a city girl turned agriculture enthusiast can inspire and encourage other young people interested in organic agriculture as a career path. Jen plans to continue her classroom and field education into a lifelong career in plant sciences. Jen already has specific goals for breeding organic plants for higher yields and climate tolerance to benefit organic farmers globally.
Last year was the first time that the CCOF Foundation supported Jen’s career in organic agriculture. Jen maintains a 3.96 GPA at Clemson University and plans to complete her degree in Plant and Environmental Sciences with an Agronomy concentration. Jen also recently completed an internship at Lipman Family Farms as a research and development intern. The CCOF Foundation congratulates and wishes the best to Audrey Jen during her upcoming studies in 2021!
Applications for CCOF’s Future Organic Farmers program open April 1, 2021. Find out more and apply.