About The Farmer - Jordan Scheibel
I am a transplant to Iowa who has put down roots and stayed. I grew up in rural northwest Connecticut in what could be called former farm country. Once home to many sheep and dairy farms, the region is now mostly reforested and residential, a vacation spot for city dwellers. I came west to Grinnell, Iowa in August 2006 to attend Grinnell College. I graduated three and half years later in December 2009 with a degree in history and a growing sense of place and interest in local agriculture. I first became interested in gardening and eating locally during my time at Grinnell College, where I became the leader of the student garden and was part of a group of students that founded the Grinnell Community Garden in Miller Park, now managed Imagine Grinnell. After graduation, I began working full-time for Andy and Melissa Dunham at Grinnell Heritage Farm in April 2010, a certified organic vegetable farm on the northwest edge of Grinnell, and continued working there for three growing seasons. My time at Grinnell Heritage Farm introduced me to small-scale, organic agriculture, with all of its promises and challenges, and also brought me into contact with the vibrant alternative agriculture community in Iowa and the upper Midwest.
One of the pivotal moments that turned me towards farming came in February 2011. I attended the Midwest Organic Farming Conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, on a Young Organic Steward scholarship. I was deeply inspired by young people who, like me, came from non-farm backgrounds but were successfully starting their own farm businesses and I began to consider the possibility. Later that year, I was accepted into Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) Saving Incentive Program, which matched me with a mentor and required me to begin saving money for a farm asset and to write a business plan, and I began participating in PFI's Next Generation program. In January 2014, I became part of the second group of "graduates" from the SIP program. Through PFI, I have met many kind, funny, deeply knowledgable, deeply principled, humble, open, and innovative farmers, young and old, who continue to support and inspire me. I started my market garden at Grinnell Heritage Farm in 2012, with the support of my employers, and began selling at the Thursday Grinnell Farmers Market. At the same time, I was fortunate to become connected with the Grin City Collective artist residency through fellow Grinnell College graduate Molly Rideout and helped them start and manage a large garden in 2012.
In 2013, with the blessing and cooperation of Grin City and the Lacina family, I started Middle Way Farm on a 1/3 acre near the residency, built a greenhouse, and began converting the loading dock of one of the buildings on the property into my wash and pack station. I continued to work at Iowa Valley Continuing Education as the coordinator for Poweshiek County until December of 2015, when I resigned to begin working on the farm full-time during the growing season. With the end of Grin City Collective as a fixed artist residency at the Lacina farm in July 2016, Middle Way Farm has continued production on 4 acres of leased land. I am lucky to have the supportive Lacina-Tuggle family behind me as well as access to this excellent soil and existing infrastructure just outside of Grinnell while continuing to live in the town in a shared house with my wife Emily, son Oscar and housemates Kirsten and Lydia.
My goal as a grower is to feed my friends, family, and community with great tasting food using a human-scale, ecologically based system of production that provides an adequate and fulfilling livelihood. I want Middle Way Farm to be part of a community based food system that provides a viable and joyful alternative to the existing global, industrial production of food. We may never be able to change that food system as a whole, but we can do our best to claim food sovereignty within it and develop ways to feed ourselves.