Nelson Hawkins, 2021 Future Organic Farmer recipient, was always fascinated by plants and animals, and a career in agriculture felt like a perfect way to combine those two passions. Having studied sustainable agriculture at UC Davis, Hawkins is currently pursuing additional education from the Center for Land-Based Learning in Sacramento, California. Hawkins is also the founder and farm manager of We Grow Farms in Sacramento, a small, one-acre diversified farm enterprise that uses organic farming techniques to grow over 50 varieties of seasonal produce on two different plots. At his farm, Hawkins directly implements the knowledge gained from his teachers and guides into successful growing practices.
With a grant from the CCOF Foundation, Hawkins has been able to use the experiences gained in the farm incubator program and bring them to fruition in his own business. “I felt like being an organic food producer is a calling for my purpose in life … agriculture always seemed like something I would never get tired of, no matter how hard the work is. I especially am interested to learn and implement strategies to manage a farm using ecological methods patterned by nature, which is inevitably organic. I have studied and worked on a few farms that demonstrate this approach successfully and have modeled our farm from those experiences.”
The California Farm Academy, nested within the Center for Land-Based Learning, provides important training and classwork to help farm businesses thrive. Farmers wear many hats, and understanding both the agricultural components as well as the business aspects can prove vital to propelling many farms to the next level. “Topics such as accounting, entering markets, selling farm products, labor and legalities … are all necessary subjects to have a solid understanding of in order to operate a farm successfully,” says Hawkins. Equipped with the resources, technical assistance, and networks from the Farm Academy, and with financial support from the Future Organic Farmers grant, Hawkins continues to expand the impact and stability of his farm locally and beyond.
Hawkins spoke at the 2022 EcoFarm Conference on Diverse Markets, Diverse Perspectives, and works with the racial equity and underserved farmers committee at the CDFA and with Community Alliance with Family Farmers. Hawkins’ calling and direction centers on “build[ing] a strong, resilient, regenerative, equitable, and ecologically focused farming and food system,” both through his farm and by participating in the wider food, social justice, and farming communities.
This is the second year that the CCOF Foundation supported Nelson Hawkins’ career in organic agriculture. Hawkins plans to continue studying in the farm incubator program, learning and growing as an organic farmer, and instilling this knowledge and work into his thriving organic family farm business, now in its fifth successful season. The CCOF Foundation congratulates and wishes the best to Nelson Hawkins with his farm and studies!
Find out more about the Future Organic Farmers grant fund from CCOF on the Future Organic Farmers website now!
Applications are OPEN NOW and will be accepted until April 15, 2022.