Rachel Beyer, Residency Farm Manager
This will be Rachel’s fourth season farming full time. Her interest in sustainable food production and access has been evolving over the years but right now, she ponders most the question of how to make a good living as a small-scale farmer while also growing produce that is affordable enough for the average family.
Rachel is from the rolling woods of Southern Indiana. Her childhood home is at the end of a long gravel drive in a three hundred acre forest where a creek flows and redbud trees and dogwoods proliferate. She has always felt a strong sense of place in the Hoosier state, so it is quite a compliment to Michigan that she has now twice been persuaded to move here.
Rachel originally learned to farm as a student in the MSU Organic Farming Certificate Program. She has since spent time teaching at the Student Organic Farm, managing an eleven-acre vegetable and cut flower operation back in Indiana, and co-coordinating efforts to start an Indiana New Farm School. Before farming consumed her life, Rachel travelled in West Africa, earned a degree in International Studies, and performed for many years with two small modern dance companies.
Someday she hopes to be able to afford to start her own farm way out in the country—probably back in Indiana but Leelanau County is another likely possibility. She has spent every summer since she was a small girl visiting her grandmother who lives along the beautiful Sleeping Bear Lake Shore and finds the place awe-inspiring.
Rachel loves working outside, sitting down with her family every night to eat dinner, baking birthday treats, dancing at weddings, and going on long walks with her two pups, Rooster and Taloola. She is honored to get to spend the next two years helping to develop the Residency Farm and grateful to Jeremy for calling and asking her to come back to be part of this vibrant, innovative, Michigan farm community.
Michael Kelleher, Assistant Farm Manager
Michael is grateful to be working as Assistant Farm Manager for the Tilian Residency Farm this year. He believes that this position will give him just the experience he needs to someday run his own operation, ‘Duck Spirit Farm’ on land owned and cultivated lovingly by his grandfather for many years.
Michael’s pursuits in farming began only a few years ago, while attending Michigan State University. He graduated in 2010, earning a degree in Agribusiness Management and then landed an internship with a small new CSA in Charlotte, called Thornapple. He and the farm manager worked alongside the core group of CSA members that season to harvest a lot of food. In 2011, Michael decided to deepen his knowledge of farming further by participating in the Organic Farmer Training Program at the MSU Student Organic Farm.
Michael’s passion for farming stems from a strong value in healthy living and healthy relationships. When he is not learning how to be a better, speedier farmer, he enjoys reading his horoscope, listening to Italian music on his ipod, experimenting with oatmeal muffins creations, consuming large quantities of ice cream, and generally all outdoor activities and adventures. He also has been known to try on a variety of amusing accents to keep Rachel laughing out in the field.
Jeremy Moghtader, Tilian Steering Committee
Jeremy is one of the co-founders of the Tilian Steering Committee and in his free time is acting as one of two advisors to the 2012 Residency Farm start-up. By day, he is Director and Lead Instructor for the MSU Organic Farmer Training Program and has personally observed a need among beginning farmers for supported, transitional farm management opportunities like those now evolving as part of the Tilian Residency Program.
He himself got his start growing food by learning from his late grandfather and as a student at Evergreen State College Organic Farm in Olympia Washington. Jeremy has worked at several other organic farms including the Mountain School educational farm in Vermont. He has a Masters Degree from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment where his research focused on Agroecology.
Beyond Tilian and the Organic Farmer Training Program, Jeremy is greatly involved in food and farm system education and activism. He serves on the founding board of directors for the Agrarian Adventure, a non-profit organization dedicated to connecting K-12 students to the source of their food through experiential food and agriculture education. He also serves on the leadership team for the Food System Economic Partnership where he chaired the Farm to School Committee for 3 years, working to increase consumption of healthy locally produced food in school meals.
In the rare moments when Jeremy is not busy teaching or working to revitalize the Michigan economy through a small farm agricultural revolution, he loves to go camping at Nordhouse Dunes with his wife, Elissa, and sweet daughter, Zea. He has also been saving seed from his grandfather’s flint corn and walking onions for many years and continues to keep these special plant lineages growing out at the Student Organic Farm.
Tomm Becker, Tilian Steering Committee
When he has free moments from responsibilities as co-owner of Sunseed Farm, a year-round diversified vegetable CSA in Ann Arbor, Tomm is giving his time as a member of the steering committee at Tilian. This 2012 growing season he is also dedicating extra hours to serve as an advisor to the Residency Farm start-up. He is the excel spreadsheet wizard behind all the crop planning tools, 5 year budgets, and monthly revenue timelines that the Tilian CSA business plan has been built around. These and other resources are all part of the consulting services he provides to growers, companies, and organizations seeking to create year-round growing systems.
Tomm originally got his start as a farmer working part-time in college at the MSU Student Organic Farm. He was eventually hired on as Production Manager at the SOF and it was through that supported management experience, growing in all seasons for an established CSA, training and guiding student farmers, and receiving daily mentorship from more experienced growers, that he gained the skills and confidence needed to endure as a farmer on his own.
Through his work now, Tomm seeks to create dynamic food systems that can serve as the foundations for local economies and communities, as well as to build and maintain the health of our agricultural ecosystems. Tomm and his wife Trilby have two dogs and a new baby. They find joy and reward in the act of seeding, giving of water, surrendering to the weather, hard work, and a plentiful harvest.