Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin has been raising sheep for almost 30 years. It’s not an easy job. It requires a mix of physical labor, a vast knowledge of genetics and breeding, and a big heart. This is a profession that calls for many sleepless nights. There will be hard times. Not all lambs make it to adulthood, and that can be heart-wrenching.
But like every farmer has uttered at one time or another, “maybe next year” rings with resilience and dedication to your flock.
“I wish everyone knew just how enjoyable and rewarding it is to see the results after you put in all the hard work. There is no way to explain the joy you get when you work hard to put the right genetics together to raise a better animal than what you currently have and actually succeed. Many people can buy a champion quality animal, but few can raise one.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
All the experience Rebecca has acquired over the years has come with many awards and recognition.
From 4-H and FFA, she’s won several of the following:
state and national champions
showmanship championships on state and national levels
states and national FFA degrees
Rebecca’s won state fair championships in the following states:
Rebecca has also won many National Breed Champions and has been the groomer/handler for 2 National Supreme Champions at the North American International Livestock Expo.
Now Rebecca runs workshops in several states to coach youth on their sheep projects. In these clinics, she covers basic maintenance, grooming techniques, feeding, breeding and showmanship. She’ll often work on individual levels to further their personal skills as they navigate farming at a young age.
Rebecca is passionate about helping beginners, with no prior experience, get to state and national competitions.
“I like to help families who think that they can’t afford to have champion quality sheep by creating a plan so that they can find a way with the right guidance.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
If you purchase any lambs from Slack Farm, Rebecca is now offering a free clinic to ensure every customer has the information and skills they need to successfully raise sheep.
“First time sheep owners should seek out information from current breeders to help find the right breed for them. Different breeds require different housing, grooming, and feeding routines. No two breeds are exactly the same. If you do your research, there will be one breed that will fit your personality, needs, and wants better than the others. If you pick the right one to start out with, you will be hooked and possibly find other breeds to connect with over time.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
At just 7 years old, Rebecca began her work with the Suffolk breed. Over the years her herd has expanded to also include Hampshire, Dorper and Oxford breeds.
“Raising sheep can be a great experience for so many reasons. The memories and the time you spend together is something very special and will last a lifetime. Sheep are very reasonable in price to raise and maintain compared to many other animals. Their temperaments are great and they all have their own personalities. Sheep are very smart and easy to train through repetition.” -Rebecca Krinsky of Slack Farms
It’s that time of year again, when we’re all looking to support the small businesses our communities hold dear. Purchasing goods and services from the pillars of your favorite neighborhood is the best way to show your support.
Here’s the quick list of Crafted in Carhartt’s favorite Women Owned Businesses (in order of appearance above):
Below you can find out more about these 15 Women Owned Small Businesses. If you shop online this holiday season, don’t forget these incredibly hard working folks.
1.) Messner Bee FarmRachael Messner of Messner Bee Farm in Kansas City spun her hobby into a flourishing business. Her operations began as a 900 square foot urban farm. Over years of never giving up despite what different seasons showered upon her, Rachael and her family now live on a full-fledged bee farm. You can even stop by for a tour if you’d like to know more about where your honey comes from.
“Honeybees pollinate over one-third of all the fruits and vegetables we eat. Of course they also make honey! The best way people can help bees is by minimizing their use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, and supporting other organizations that do the same. Buy local honey, support your local beekeeper.” –Rachael Messner
Shop some of Rachael’s products here. Read more about Rachael’s story here.
Bo Shepherd and her partner Kyle started Woodward Throwbacks in 2013 as a means to repurpose much of the discarded lumber and abandoned antiques that plagued Detroit’s streets. Their shop has moved from location to location, each time scaling up and offering even more goods and services.
“My dad is a general contractor back in New York and when I was younger I used to go on some of the sites with him. I believe that is when I truly became fascinated with the idea of being able to design and build.
I started re-purposing found wood back in college but it became a serious hobby once I met Kyle. We used to bike around the city exploring different neighborhoods and during our excursions we noticed an abundance of wood from illegal dumping sites. We combined our love for the city and the idea that taking materials found in the street would also help clean our neighborhoods.” -Bo Shepherd
Seattle Urban Farm Co. offers many services, and they differ from customer to customer. Their knowledgeable team can plan, build, and maintain the urban farm you always wanted but never thought you could personally manage—perfect for those of us who may not have a green thumb, but love the idea of homegrown tomatoes.
4.) Homestead WisconsinBrit McCoy is a woman of many talents. She’s a full time farmer, runs her own flower business, and works at her family’s business, The Wood Cycle. Making strides in her career alongside her family is the most challenging and most fulfilling part of the job
Brit majored in Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University. Upon returning to Wisconsin, she and her husband Matt founded their own farm, first selling their ethically raised meat, eventually expanding their reach.
“My business started just like my father’s, to make our hobby our career. I started raising livestock as soon as I could afford to feed them.” -Brit McCoy
You can order a box of their fine grass-fed beef and lamb here. Read more about Brit’s story here.
5.) Blue Marble Ice CreamTen years ago, Jennie Dundas and Alexis Gallivan, opened Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn. Their products are entirely organic, made from only high quality ingredients, and absolutely no hormones, antibiotics, harmful pesticides or artificial additives. Manufacturing in New York with ethical and sustainable practices is crucial to this woman-run company.
“Nobody can really be sad eating ice cream, can they?” -Susan Jo, Ice Cream Chef
Ship Blue Marble Ice Cream straight to your front door here. Read more about Blue Marble here.
All of the products Alexandra makes are set apart from other wooden goods. She sustainably sources her materials from the jungle, befriending locals and working with each regions’ governments along the way. The wood she harvests and brings back to her shop is ancient, packed tightly over years and years.
“The wood I use is some of the most dense in the world. When you put it in the water it sinks and termites can’t even penetrate it. It’s like working with steel, and it breaks pretty much any blade.” -Alexandra Climent
Shop Alexandra’s one-of-a-kind creations here. Read more about Alexandra here.
7.) Sculptures by Amber JeanFrom giant sculptures made from entire trees to carvings that fit in your hand, the interplay between humans and nature is the driving force behind Amber’s work. She put herself through college, finding work in the great outdoors that fueled her passion for earth and art.
Amber helped build the Continental Divide Trail, was part of the first all female crew at the Forest Service in Bozeman, fought forest fires in West Yellowstone, and was the first female wilderness ranger based out of the West Yellowstone District.
Amber was the first woman to carve in the country of Bhutan for the Prime Minister. She’s created many large scale works that have earned her great recognition in the art community. And she even gave a Ted Talk about her work.
“I never wasted energy grumbling at, whining about or looking for prejudices. I just got to work, stayed curious, made lots of mistakes, and kept after it.” –Amber Jean
8.) Circa CeramicsNancy Witt and her husband Andy have been making their wares in the Chicago neighborhood of Ravenswood since 2001. Their signature style is iconic in the windy city, with their Chicago flag items constantly flying off the shelves.
Browse their online shop here. See behind the scenes into their studio here.
9.) Greta de Parry DesignGreta is a classically trained woodworker and sculptor in the Chicago area. She’s been designing and making furniture since 2007. Her collection consists of clean lines and minimalist touches.
Shop Greta’s furniture here. Read more about her story here.
10.) The Little Flower Soap Co.Michigan florist, Holly Rutt, started making soaps as a hobby. Combining her love for nature and interest in healing plant extractions and essential oils, she and her husband created a line of body care products. After realizing how much steam her side gig was gaining, Holly decided to devote the majority of her time to The Little Flower Soap Co.
“The maker movement is in full swing there has never been a better time to start your own small business. If you think your life would be better as your own boss in a creative field than get started and stick with it.” —Holly Rutt
Shop Holly’s body care products here. Read more about Holly’s story here.
11.) The Elk Coffee ShopThis charming coffee shop in the West Village of New York is owned by Claire Chan. Five years ago, she took over the space, renovated, and reopened with her grand vision in mind.
“I feel so proud of the all women-run businesses I see popping up, especially right now. At a time where women’s rights and female empowerment is more relevant than ever, it is important to express your ideas and exercise your values so that others will be encouraged to do the same. There’s strength in numbers, and it feels amazing to surround yourself with like-minded and strong women!” -Claire Chan
If you’re in NYC, you can order The Elk’s offerings straight to your door here. Read more about The Elk here.
“We have had our farm for over 20 years. We love the Bozeman area and our goats get to enjoy beautiful scenery and seasons we have here. It’s beautiful every day. The best thing about what we do is to provide nutritious, delicious organic goat cheeses, pork, and vegetables to people. Those people appreciate being able to get great food and are thankful. It is a symbiotic relationship.
We have been making cheese for 17 years, certified organic for 12 years. We are sustainable farmers and try to utilize all of our resources and byproducts responsibly. We use the whey from the cheese to feed organic hogs and compost and use all of our manure for fields and gardens.” -Co Owner, Sue Brown
Ship some some of the famous Amaltheia Dairy Farm goat cheese straight to your front door here. Read more about the family here.
13.) Pewabic PotteryPewabic Pottery in Detroit was founded in 1903 by Mary Chase Perry Stratton. Her ceramics were nationally renowned, landing her a spot in the Michigan’s Women Hall of Fame. Mary went on to win several awards and established the ceramics department at the University of Michigan. The touch she had on Michigan and the arts and crafts community will always be remembered. The shop is still operating to this day and is now a National Historic Landmark.
Shop some of their trademark Pewabic blue pieces here.
14.) Live Edge DetroitIn 2016, Jenny, her brother Joe, and her dad Mike founded Live Edge. They now salvage the trees that Mike’s company removes. Once the wood has been cut and taken back to their warehouse, the crew mills them into new usable material.
“Our vision for Live Edge Detroit was to develop a branch of Mike’s Tree Surgeons, Inc. that focused on salvaging our local resources and making them available for the community to enjoy for many more years to come. Our long term goals are to uphold that initial vision and to see it bloom into a more sustainable and profitable branch of the family business. We aren’t planning to take over the world, but we want to make a difference within the community, and we feel that starts right here in our own backyard.” -Jenny Barger
Shop Live Edge’s offerings here. Read more about the family business here.
15.) Five Marys FarmsA few years ago, Mary and her husband Brian were high-powered Silicon Valley lawyers/entrepreneurs who traded it all away to live the Carhartt way of life. Armed with a strong work ethic and the fearlessness to ask lots of questions, the couple and their four daughters who all share the first name of Mary – but who go by their middle name to keep things “simple” – have proudly become a fully-functioning ranch that sells its meats all over the country.
“I am so proud of the life we get to give our girls living and working together on the ranch,” Mary beams when talking about being the mother of four young farm girls. “I don’t think I gave my girls enough credit before we moved here,” she continues, “I made their lunches and filled their water bottles and did all of their laundry, not really expecting them to do too much. By necessity, when we moved to the ranch the girls had to step up to the plate and start helping more, and they are so much more capable because of it.”
Shop Five Mary’s here. Read more about this amazing family here.
City & Guilds of London Art School was founded in 1854. This specialized art college, in the middle of England’s capital city, offers a wide range of courses. Currently, it’s the only school in Britain that offers undergrad and postgrad degrees in historic carving. Today, we’ll introduce you to a few of their talented ornamental woodcarvers and architectural stone carvers.
“The school is a small independent Art school in South London. It is the only place in the UK which teaches carving to a degree level. The school is very unique – we are taught in a very traditional way – something that is very rare in the contemporary art world. The course emphasizes that to become a skilled carver there are many supporting disciplines to be mastered: Drawing, Clay Modeling, and Art Histories classes are a must. We also learn the Art of Lettering – drawing out letter forms ready to carve is a whole world in itself. The classes at the school are very small, making the whole school a really tight knit community.” -Student and Stone Carver Miriam Johnson
Over the past 3 years, Silje Loa has been studying woodcarving at City & Guilds. When she graduates, Silje will have a degree in ornamental woodcarving and gilding.
Her journey toward woodcarving has been a pilgrimage of her own making. To outsiders, some of her steps may seem random, but each change in course laid a foundation to her current career. Her understanding has deepened and her eye has matured.
It all started after high school, when Silje set sail on a tall ship. Everyday was a lesson in the maintenance of wood along with other practical and invaluable skills.
She then went on to study Prehistoric Archaeology. Her classes revolved around crafts, skills, and history.
Those studies led her pursue a degree in the conservation of pictorial art at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.
Once she earned her degree, she realized that she wanted to learn a craft and create great works of her own, leading her to City & Guilds of London.
“All of my experience outside of carving seem relevant and inspiring to me in my work… I love working in wood. There is such a huge variation of softness, grain, use and look in different types of wood and thereby a lot to be learned and explored. I learn better practically than academically, and the physicality of carving appealed to me. I love getting consumed by a project and feeling like I’m in a state of flow.” -Woodcarver Silje Loa
Although Silje is still in school at City & Guilds, that isn’t slowing her down. She’s won several sought after commissions. She was chosen to design and carve a grotesque (similar to a gargoyle) that will soon be fixed to St. George Chapel at Windsor Castle.
The piece Silje is working on in these photographs also has a great backstory:
“I won a commission to design and carve the coat of arms for last year’s Prime Warden for the Fishmongers Company in London. The commission was particularly exciting because the prime warden was Princess Anne, the first female Prime Warden the company has ever had. The coat of arms is now at display at the Fishmongers Hall.” -Woodcarver Silje Loa
Silje’s advice to anyone considering trying their hand at the wooden arts:
“If you want to become a carver, get carving. Looking at carvings at museums and in historical buildings is amazing inspiration and can even give you an understanding of how they were made, but really just find a piece of wood, a chisel and begin.” -Woodcarver Silje Loa
Miriam Johnson began her career as a stonemason five years ago. Through the apprenticeship program with the Prince’s Foundation, she was able to travel across the UK working on historic buildings. To continue her training, Miriam enrolled at Bath College. There she learned masonry skills in the classroom and in the real world in a stone masonry company. That experience made her realize she wanted to specialize within the industry on the more artistic and creative side, carving. Bringing her to City & Guilds. In June, Miriam will graduate with a Historic Carving Diploma in Architectural Stone Carving.
In these photographs, Miriam is working on a beautiful piece inspired by her grandfather’s work depicting a centaur fighting a dragon.
“My Grandfather was not a stone carver, as far as I know this was the only thing he ever carved. He would tell us how he’d carved it for my grandmother (75 years ago) with nothing but a sharpened screwdriver.
As a child, I had heard this story so many times that it was a normal thing to me, nothing special. I didn’t think twice about it. Looking back now, the fact that my grandfather was not a sculptor – this carving is really impressive. On top of this, it is very likely that he carved this piece during the Second World War, whilst he was fighting against the Nazi’s in the French resistance.
Looking at it made me realize to myself how this piece and my grandfather must have subconsciously greatly influenced my career choice.” -Stone Carver Miriam Johnson
After Miriam’s grandfather returned home from war, he furthered his architectural work by training as a historian. He specialized in the medieval construction of cathedrals, and even wrote several books on the subject.
“Stone masonry in this day and age is a rare trade. It cannot be a coincidence that a grandchild of this man became one. Sadly, by the time I was in the trade, my grandfather had dementia and I do not think he ever really realized my occupation.” -Stone Carver Miriam Johnson
To honor her grandfather, Miriam decided to carve her own version of a centaur fighting a dragon. She made a few changes to his original design to make it her own. Miriam’s version is twice as big, chiseled out of black stone (to contrast the white), circular in shape (to symbolize a familial continuity), with a female centaur.
Miriam had always interpreted her grandfather’s version as a representation of himself, fighting the good fight. It was only fitting that her adaptation should represent herself, a woman, also fighting the good fight.
“I believe that children, both boys and girls, should have strong female role models, which is what I hope I am creating in my work.” -Stone Carver Miriam Johnson
“Creating something so permanent in the world is such a satisfying thing to do, and to have the chance, as I often do, to work on historic buildings is such an honour. Things that I have made with my hands will live on long past me. To be part of a trade that is so old, using methods that have not changed that much in hundreds of years is something that is wonderful. I also feel really lucky to have a job that could take me anywhere in the world, there is so much to explore!
It isn’t all rosy though. I can often work in pretty harsh environments, using an angle grinder all day, having to wear masks, goggles, gloves etc. Often I work outside, I’ve worked in snow, and sleet, and rain. Working in awkward places high up on scaffolding, lifting heavy loads, and working long hours.” -Stone Carver Miriam Johnson
Growing up in London, Zeinab was exposed to woodcarving before she ever knew it was a skill she could learn. Beautiful ornate buildings with intricate decoration are common in such a historic city.
Zeinab is currently studying Historical Woodcarving and Gilding. Her interest in wood followed her study of textile design.
Through her studies, she felt the need for greater sustainability. In an effort to combat consumerism, Zeinab researched mediums that had longer lifespans than textiles. She learned that woodcarvings can last twice as long as you or me. Eventually that led her to City and Guilds, happily in her own hometown.
That doesn’t mean she’s stayed put. Zeinab has traveled all over, using crafts as her universal form of communication. She’s taught weaving and block printing to small villages in Samoa and Indonesia. She’s facilitated art workshops in the Amazon. And she spent a summer in Rome, studying floral symbolism in Augustan art.
That time in Italy inspired the piece she’s working on in these photos. Zeinab carved this beautiful panel of lime wood in the style of the Ara Pacis, a Roman altar from 13 BC.
Zeinab hopes to raise awareness of woodcarving to support the continuation of the craft. She plans to show her carvings in contemporary spaces in an effort to revive the traditional skill as an art form and an important tool in conservation.
“Learning a traditional skill is a continual learning process. The more mistakes you make the more you will learn!” -Woodcarver Zeinab Harding
For 30 years Sue worked as a graphic designer, creating packaging and branding.
“In my career when I first started, I tried to hide the fact I was dyslexic but I came to realize (and I would suggest it to others) that you should embrace the things that you find most challenging, and work hard and smart to get round your difficulties. Maybe try a different angle on how to learn. The most successful things I’ve done in art is when I confront my Demons the most.” -Stone Carver Sue Aperghis
Despite her struggle with dyslexia, typography has always been one of Sue’s main interests. That led her to Letter Cutting in stone, a skill she’s learned over the last 3 years at City and Guilds. She’ll graduate this June.
In these photos, Sue is working on a sculpture of a soldier, inspired by the works of Charles Sergeant Jagger on the Royal Artillery Memorial in Hyde Park Corner. For two months, she molded a clay model to use for measurements once she started cutting into stone. The carving took about 6 months, and it was well worth the time and effort.
“I’m fascinated in the human form and obstruction of the figure and drapery to tell a story.” -Stone Carver Sue Aperghis
What a beautiful story of triumph! Confronting her dyslexia and pursuing her passion for typography led Sue to a whole new career. Now she’s picking up the mantel, continuing the traditional craft of stone carvers, with her own insights and vision.
Click here to find out more about City & Guilds of London Art School.
Operating Engineers 324, based out of Howell, Michigan, has been serving its union members for over 100 years. They now boast 14,000 members as they help build Michigan’s future. We had a unique opportunity to meet with some of the sisterhood. Join us as we introduce you to some of OE 324’s best.
“The training center is an awesome facility and the instructors are amazing. An obstacle I faced in the beginning of my apprenticeship was that I was nervous to operate equipment in front of people. I thought I was going to get made fun of or people would judge me. But I got support from all of the instructors and other apprentices. Everyone has always been very helpful and supportive.
My mom and dad are both in the trades, so it has always been a part of my life. My mom is in the UAW but she is also an operator for Ford Motor Company and my dad is a lineman in the IBEW Local 17. I went to college for a year and was not interested in going back, so I started looking into different trades.
I got into the Operating Engineers when I was 20, so this is my first career. I think the best part of my job is that I love what I do. I love meeting new people. I also enjoy being able to work outside all day.
I think any young woman that wants to get in the trades should go for it. You can always change what you do. If you think you are interested, give it a shot. You can’t tell if you like it or not if you don’t try.” -Elizabeth Kavanagh
“I love the amazing view of the world in the mornings, the chatter between my coworkers, but above all–the FREEDOM of the culture within the field. There are no hair restrictions, not many handbooks, and we take care of each other whether we want to or not.” -La’Tasha Smith (pictured below)
Crane Operator Apprentice, Jessica Knight (pictured below), has been a part of Local 324 for 3 years. Before that, she served in Heavy Equipment Construction through the Army Reserves for 18 years.
“I love the fact that I walked into both the Army and the Union with an open mind and wide eyes. I feel like I have a better chance at my own personal success. Being a woman, you have to have thick skin. If you can dish it, be ready to take it. And be open minded.
I’m helping rebuild Michigan. And showing women we got what it takes. Sometimes, you get guys who think you’re a princess. They might stare if you’re curvy, and talk about you behind your back. And you know what? I’m fine with that. Keep talking, because I’m doing my job right, so that you can run your mouth.” -Jessica Knight
“I do not keep my head down. I make others know my presence at work. I befriend my coworkers of all trades. We are here for one common goal: finish the job and go home safely.” -Jessica Knight
“I am an Oiler. I learn to maintain the crane I am assigned to. I do my best to keep the cranes clear of debris, fluids topped off, and constant overview of the crane while in operation so that the Primary Operator can do their job…
Never be afraid to look at any piece of equipment and say, ‘Yeah, I want to learn this!’ Give ‘em hell ladies!” -Jessica Knight
Christi Smtih (pictured above) has over 21 years of experience as an Operating Engineer. She was in construction before joining the trades and wishes she had joined right after graduating from high school. Her goal is to work 35 years and retire at a young age. Before she does that, she plans on working as hard as she can, to the very last.
Christi loves her job for many reasons. But at the end of the day, she loves getting paid to play in the dirt. Even though she’s certified to operate many different pieces of equipment, like the overhead crane, she has a few favorite machines: the side boom, forklift, and skid loader. Those are the machines that are always moving.
“I’m not a one piece of equipment kind of gal. I like being more versatile. It makes you more employable.” -Christi Smith
Over the coarse of her career, she’s seen many changes. More and more women are joining the trades and more and more folks are accepting that. She notes that the worksite has become a safer place as well—putting the common good over a quick build.
Christi is certain that the best move she ever made in her life was joining OE 324. She couldn’t be more proud to be part of a union.
“You work with a lot of great people on great jobs. And you always have a support system. The union takes care of you, keeping up to date with technology and providing a place where you can improve your skills. You’re a part of a group of people who are proud of their work and what they do.” -Christi Smith
After graduating from her apprenticeship, La’Tasha Smith (pictured above) will be a Journeyman Civil Engineer. She is currently a second year apprentice with no previous experience in the field.
“Honesty, I never had any interest in the trades. I went to a career fair and one of the female coordinators approached me and was able to convince me to give it a shot.
I was 28 and broken—lost, homeless, and defeated!! Life had run me over with a truck and backed up to finish the job!! I felt hopeless. So I told her that there was no way I’d ever make it into that career, especially with no experience!! But she was convinced I could, and I actually did!
The training is very intimidating and fast paced. The obstacles I faced were being able to quickly adapt to the new career culture which is made up of predominantly males, learning new machines quickly and safely, remembering all the rules and regulations, schedule changes, and weather conditions affecting work.
I stayed connected to other women in the trade at my company. I asked as many questions as I needed to…
Do the legwork. Educate yourself as much as possible and stay teachable.” -La’Tasha Smith
Ashley O’Grady (pictured below) works under the Road Builders Contract, which covers heavy highways, bridges, and airport work. Currently, she’s on a concrete paving crew. She has 4 years of experience.
“I went through the operators apprenticeship program. The training from that gave me the confidence and skills I needed to be successful in the field. I have found support in all my brothers and sisters I’ve met through my union… I feel a great sense of pride when I get to see the finished product, knowing I played a big role helping build it.” -Ashley O’Grady
Ashley was interested in the trades because she knew she could be successful and make good wages without going to college. If she had known how much she’d love the work, she would have joined even sooner. The long hours have been the most trying part of the job, but the sense of brother/sisterhood, along with great health care, benefits, and a pension make it all worth it.
“I feel like construction workers have a bad stigma sometimes. I wish people actually knew how serious skilled trades are and how successful you can be.” -Ashley O’Grady
Ashley hopes to expand her skill set, continuing to learn different equipment. There are endless opportunities and paths you can take as an operator. She wants to be as versatile and experienced as she possibly can.
Danielle Athey’s interest in the trades soared when she discovered she could travel through work and start her career while training, all without taking out loans for school. She currently works on the pipeline and has one more year left of her apprenticeship. Danielle’s been busy, particularly this past winter, taking class after class, making sure she is as educated as she can be.
“In one year, I see myself getting close to graduating the apprenticeship and eventually becoming a journeyman. In five years, I see myself traveling the country with my work. In ten years, I hope by then I have my own house and property…
My advice is don’t be afraid of anything. Have confidence and don’t ever think you can’t ask for help. The support from my coworkers helped me more than anything.” -Danielle Athey
“Being in a union is a good thing. They will have your back. Also, I joined when I was 20, so I started getting benefits and started my pension before most people my age. Sometimes it is hard work, but it can be very rewarding in the future.” -Elizabeth Kavanagh
To find out more about joining Operating Engineers 324, click here.
To shop favorite Carhartt gear, now available in hardworking new sizes from XS to 3X, click here.
In the middle of downtown Detroit, just a a few blocks from the city’s lively Eastern Market, sits The Keep Growing Detroit Farm. It’s a hotspot of workshops for growers of all ages and the birthplace of the popular Motown Music garlic seed.
Keep Growing Detroit is a nonprofit devoted to the city’s food sovereignty, helping the community cultivate their own healthy produce in a sustainable way. Their Garden Resource Program, now over 15 years old, has woven a connection across thousands of local gardens, providing resources and tools to the area.
Nikolette Barnes (pictured above), a Detroit native, has been growing food since 2008. For many years, she worked alongside her dad, the farm manager of D-Town Farm. Using the skills her father taught her, she took a summer job supervising kids who were learning how to grow their own food. Nikolette bonded with them deeply and discovered her passion to teach young people about food sovereignty. Her mission is to expose her hometown to the Food Justice Movement. Through that, she hopes to see a shift in how consumers utilize their spending power, making better food choices overall.
“My title is Early Childhood Garden Development and Family Engagement Specialist. I am responsible for all facets–garden and farm to table education–in the early childhood centers. I do everything from training teachers and parents on basic gardening skills to installing garden beds at schools…Our programs provide gardeners with seeds, plants, education, and technical resources to grow and sell sustainable produce in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.
Urban Agriculture institutions like Keep Growing Detroit are vital for communities because of the need for access to tangible resources for growing food. It’s also important that Detroiters living in low-income communities are provided with accessible and affordable options for healthy food. KGD helps to foster an environment for thousands of growers to help fill that need.
The best part of my work is being surrounded by the next generation of food revolutionaries! I absolutely am blessed to be able to teach the babies how to grow, cook, and love the food that they grew for themselves. I also love completely transforming the mindset of someone who didn’t think they could grow food or enjoy fresh vegetables. It’s pretty rewarding.
The most challenging part of my work is dispelling the myths and breaking down the walls that result from misinformation about healthy eating and agriculture. It’s also very difficult to do this work while actively fighting against the system of oppression that creates tangible barriers to families having access to fresh locally grown food.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit Molly Hubbell (pictured below) is the Farm Operations Coordinator for Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in plant and soil science. She’s spent many years farming, working in different positions and various situations. When she’s not at work, she’s on her own farm, in north Detroit.
“I started working in nurseries 16 years ago, and have been a gardener/farmer my whole life. My mom is an avid gardener (Master Gardener), and my father passed on his appreciation for the natural world…Farmers don’t have superpowers, we rely on intuition. That intuition comes with time and patience, and can be learned by anyone willing to put the time in.” -Molly Hubbell of Keep Growing Detroit
Lindsay Pielack is a Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in Resource Ecology and Management, with a B.S. from University of Michigan. She played an influential role in the Garden Resource Program, helping it grow from 70 gardens to almost 1,500 gardens in just 8 years. Lindsay has lived in Detroit her entire life, and works hard to keep the community links strong.
“On a regular basis, I am supporting residents to start gardens and for those without a green thumb, I always encourage them to start by putting their hands into the soil and grow something! Once they do, the fire will be lit with the excitement of growing their own food and from there, I would say that every year is an opportunity to get better at it! One season at a time!
I would recommend that everyone, young or old, try their hand at growing something. You don’t have to commit to growing all your own food, just get connected to where your food comes from. There are lots of ways to do this, as simply as starting a container of herbs in your window or volunteering at a garden or farm near you.” -Lindsay Pielack of Keep Growing Detroit
Anita Singh (pictured above) is the Youth Programs Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit.
Drawing from her background as a high school science teacher, she runs the farm education program. Anita has developed youth programs in many different cities, including Cartegena, Columbia.
Imani S. Foster (pictured above) is the Farmers’ Market Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She is a native Detroiter who found her way into farming unexpectedly as a Crew Leader with the Student Conservation Association. Her role has expanded from vacant lot reclamation to Farmers’ Market Coordinator.
“The food a person sustainably grows is so much better than what’s bought in the supermarkets. Placing your hands in the soil is healing. A person can reestablish relations with family and friends by working together…
One of the best parts of my work is helping the small gardener earn capital. Of course, I love that our customer base continues to grow. There is something so exciting about folks coming to the table and sharing how glad they are that we are back for the season. I know that the work I’m doing as the Grown in Detroit Market coordinator is retooling the culture that this is their (the gardeners’) business to grow.” -Imani Foster of Keep Growing Detroit
Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg (pictured below) is the Community Education Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She’s a Detroit native and a proud graduate of The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. It was during her senior year at Kalamazoo College she realized her passion for growing food. She graduated from Kalamazoo with a BA in Human Development and Social Relations and then returned to Detroit.
“Farming makes me feel hopeful. It’s a privilege to be connected to a community of people in the city who know how to grow food, enjoy doing so, and are cultivating and growing their communities.” -Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg of Keep Growing Detroit
“As a single mother and female farmer, I struggle with having enough time to spend with my son while also being very active in the urban agriculture community. I hope to pass on the tangible knowledge of how to grow his own food on a small or large scale. Currently he is enrolled in a program called Food Warriors (housed by Detroit Black Community Food Security Network) where he is growing food as well as exploring food justice on a local and global level. We garden at my home and two community gardens. He is in charge of watering the plants at home! I also hope to pass on the importance of being an active and contributing member of the community that you live in. ” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit
“I wish people knew how therapeutic farming can be. There is so much healing when you put your hands in the soil and grow something that will nourish your body. I also wish people knew how easy it is grow food at your home. People often feel like growing food is something only those with a green thumb can achieve. That is a huge myth, especially as it relates to growing on a small scale. There are so many resources for new gardeners to learn basic gardening skills..
I definitely do not have superpowers when it comes to growing food. I am still learning so much about how to problem solve as it’s related to my crops or soil quality. Farming makes me feel powerful…It’s not a walk in the park or romantic. Sometimes you will experience seasons where nothing grows abundantly or someone steals all of your melons. Stay the course.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit
If you’d like to find out more about the work these outstanding women are doing in Detroit, click here.
After Rachael and Erik got married in 2010, they began their search for a deeper connection to their food sources. Their first foray into urban farming was their 900 square foot garden. It’s there the couple began raising chickens and making their own soap.
“Bees were a natural next step, but they were much harder than we thought. We loved collaborating on beekeeping and coming up with solutions to make our hives more successful.
After the first few years, we started to have some small victories in the bee yard. I ended up with quite a bit of extra beeswax, and decided I wanted to make some lip balm and try to sell it. I found myself obsessing over the details and making a product I was really proud of. At that time, I was also making ceramics, soap, and spinning wool.
With no clear outlet for all these products, I organized a small craft show to sell these things, and the support from the community was overwhelming. The community also let me know they wanted more things from the hive! Within a year all the other hobbies were put on the back-burner and it was all bees all the time!” –Rachael Messner
“Educating others about honeybees is one of my favorite things about my job! What I hope people understand is that bees are extremely hard-working, endlessly fascinating, critical to our way of life on this planet, and are in serious trouble. Also, I hope they know that all of our products from the hive are made with love from us and the bees!” –Rachael Messner
Life Lessons Rachael Has Learned From Bees:
Work hard, and think about how the work you do will impact future generations. The bees that store honey for winter are long gone by the time the generations are born that will be consuming those resources.
If you work HARD as a team with a common goal you can have a huge impact.
Another valuable practice Rachael has picked up from beekeeping is how crucial it is to learn from your failures. As with most small business ventures, beekeeping is a world of trial and error. During the first few years, small victories and defeats are the educational bricks you use to build your trade. The Messners took a few years to finally yield a successful harvest, and once they did their victories began to compound.
“I started out with a combination of books, bugging mentors to death, and of course the infamous Youtube. It took too long for me to realize that the ideas and advice that people give on the internet often does not align with real-life experience…especially because so much of beekeeping successfully has to do with understanding your local climate and seasons. What a beekeeper does in Florida to be successful does not necessarily translate to Missouri. We get our best info from beekeepers at our local beekeeping association. We are grateful for such an open community!
We learn new things about beekeeping constantly, and we love that there is no end to information to take in. We also learn a lot from our customers! They bring new questions and ideas to us every week and challenge us to always be improving and growing.” –Rachael Messner
Rachael and Erik are raising their children on the bee farm in hopes that their eyes will be opened to the possibilities the world has to offer if you put in a little elbow grease.
“I hope they will see that the ability to independently learn and work hard (grit!) will get them where they want to go. Each step in our business has seemed daunting: keeping bees successfully, making and selling products, opening a retail store, educating large crowds about bees. Now that I’ve done these things I look forward to seeing what we can do next with our business! I hope that this drive to work for what you believe in and see a dream to its end is passed down to our kiddos.” –Rachael Messner
Rachael’s Advice for Running a Small Business:
Work for other small businesses first. Most of it is not glorious work. It is moping the floors, crunching numbers, and getting stung. Before running the Bee Farm, I worked for 6 small businesses and I got to see behind the scenes. I’m grateful for the experience so I had the right expectations.
The transition that made us happiest was moving the business out of our actual house. It’s so nice to have a place to retreat to for rest. If it’s not possible to move your business out of the home, try to put it in its own space. It’s exhausting to feel like you’re always at home and always at work.
Tenets of The Messner Bee Farm:
Dreams don’t work unless you do.
Honor the bees and their work.
Work for the long-term benefit of life on this planet.
“All of our products use beeswax and/or honey as an ingredient. We make things that are natural, useful, and enjoyable to use. Because beeswax products have been made for 1000’s of years, they are easy to keep natural. Natural product are both something that I value and keeps our customers coming back. Before a product hits the shelf I spend up to a year researching and trying ingredients before it’s ready to sell.” –Rachael Messner
“Honeybees pollinate over one-third of all the fruits and vegetables we eat. Of course they also make honey! The best way people can help bees is by minimizing their use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, and supporting other organizations that do the same. Buy local honey, support your local beekeeper.” –Rachael Messner
Helena and Matthew Sylvester have been partners long before they were ever married. As Helena’s interest in growing food developed, Matthew encouraged her–from growing plants on their patio in Oakland to leasing a farm of their own in Sunol, California.
“It was my goal, but it was a group effort. Matt was there supporting me every step of the way…While the years have aged me, the giddiness and drive are still there – as is Farmer Matt’s unwavering support (he’s now full time on the farm, going on his 5th year) – it’s amazing what you can do when you believe in yourself, but it hella helps when you have others who believe in you too.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
Helena and Matthew are now partners in marriage, on the farm, and in raising their son, August. Mornings at Happy Acre start early and evenings stretch out as long as possible. We all know that farmers are some of the hardest working people, particularly when you have to teach yourself everything from scratch. The daily routine is met with flexibility and a support system of their own making.
“I’d never met someone who wakes up in a good mood every day, before you. Sometimes it drives me crazy (I need coffee first, sometimes two cups) but really, I admire it. You carry that positivity with you through everything you do. We’re definitely not taking the easy road through life, our route is filled with bumps, challenges, and sometimes a change of directions – but damn than obnoxiously positive attitude of yours keeps us on track, and it’s helped bring us here.” -Helena to Matthew of Happy Acre Farm
This is Matthew’s second Father’s Day. Both Helena and August are so grateful to have his love and encouragement.
“As hard and stressful as some days (or weeks or seasons even) of farming can be, I am hella lucky. Lucky to be able to do what I want for a living, instead of what I need to do to get by. And lucky I get to spend so much time with my main dudes.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
Don’t forget to tell all the father figures in your life how grateful you are for them.
Sunny Sunol, California sits wedged between two historic railroad lines, a beacon of small town America along the rails and a remembrance of times past. Located along Niles Canyon, there are sweeping views at every turn—and there are a lot of turns. Winding roads slither their way up the foothills, then spit you out to the surrounding farms.
The population hovers just under 1,000 people. Aside from the 913 humans who call Sunol home, the tiny town boasted a rare honorary mayor, Bosco Ramos, a black Labrador and Rottweiler mix who beat out two candidates in the 1981 election. He served until his death in 1994. Now a new four legged boss rules the roost—Roux, at Happy Acre Farm. She was a rescue pup, abandoned on a doorstep in a cardboard box and adopted by Helena and Matthew Sylvester. At her new home—she’s plays the role of honorary farm dog mayor. (Read more about Roux here.)
Helena and Matthew are both first generation farmers, originally from Oakland, CA. As they’ve taught themselves the ins and outs of ag life, they’ve learned to divide and conquer. Helena is the greenhouse master, planning out everything—from planting schedules to sharing the family’s activities on social media so their customers can embrace where their food comes from. Matthew spends a lot of his time in the fields, taking on farm projects from irrigation to soil nutrition and harvesting.
Last year, these two first generation farmers brought a second generation farmer into the world. August Wolf is already curious about his surroundings and has proven himself to be the best taste tester around.
Every Friday, Helena celebrates Farm Fashion Fridays on instagram. It’s a playful way to say something powerful that farmers know across the world:
“The farm doesn’t care what size my clothes are, what I look like in a bathing suit or that my husband brushes his hair more often than I do. It doesn’t judge me when I wear the same thing 5 days in a row or tell me I’m look sick when I’m not wearing make up. #Farmfashionfriday can be a lot of things. For me it’s about showing what farmers actually look like, and being silly because I am who I am.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
“My hopes for August’s childhood are for him to be outside as much as possible…I want him to be comfortable outside, and to be able to use his imagination and play. I want him to know the different birds and frogs and other animals we get on the farm. I want him to be able to get his energy out, make smart decisions, and trust himself, but also be able to ask us for help when he needs it.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
“It’s a lot of hard and dirty work, early mornings, late nights, and learning curves. We don’t get off the farm much during the season, unless you count doing farmers markets, and our date nights are usually spent in the fields with leftovers and a cold beer. But it’s worth every moment, to do something we’re both truly passionate about, and we’re excited to watch our family grow and raise our children to follow their own path, wherever it may lead.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
“If you want to be something, be it. If you want to do something, do it. If you want to grow something, grow it.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
“When I first started farming, I only knew two other female farmers: my boss and her friend. Through the years that has changed dramatically to the point where I now meet more women farmers than men. I’m not sure if there are more women farming or if now we’re just able to see each other, or both. Either way, it’s magic.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
“If you’re inspired to start farming and are looking for tips on where to go from there, here are some things that hit home for me.
GROW SOMETHING. Whether you have a back yard raised beds, pots on your lanai or an allotment, grow something. Get crusty, get muddy, get hooked.
MAKE MISTAKES. They are inevitable, just learn from them.
FACE CHALLENGES. Your first move isn’t your final step – don’t get discouraged when you realize this is a lot harder than you maybe thought it was going to be.
GET DIRTY. Help with a school garden, volunteer on a farm (and if they say no it’s probably not because of you, there are strict farm volunteer laws in CA), there are even internship opportunities at amazing farms like @full_belly_farm , or programs like @ucscfarm or the stone barn.
BUILD COMMUNITY. Meet other farmers or people interested in supporting local farms. Community is huge. Instagram has been amazing for broadening our farm community – and answering our farm questions.
“Farming with a babe has definitely been a learning curve; with less sleep, a lot of prioritizing what NEEDS to get done vs what would be nice to get done, and learning to say yes and accept the offers of friends and family to help out. But seeing this butter bean suckin’ on a tomato, grabbin’ at kale leaves and trying his first roasted hakuri turnip makes the craziness worthwhile.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm
Stay up to date with Helena, Matthew, August, and Roux on instagram.
Carolina Taylor has been an Ironworker for the past 22 years.
That statement is loaded with accomplishment. In the 1990s, becoming an Ironworker as a woman was no easy feat. How did Carolina pave that road for herself?
It started with a road trip, an 18 hour quest up the West Coast from Los Angeles to Seattle. Carolina packed all of her belongings into her ’65 Galaxy with her daughter, Kat, as her copilot. She searched for a job that would provide for her and Kat—but all the “female” jobs like clerk typist, medical translator, or assistant tax accountant paid very little and offered no benefits.
A friend of Carolina’s who worked on highway construction suggested she check out a new program at Renton Technical College that offered good wages and benefits. She signed up immediately. After seeing The Space Needle as an example of what Ironworkers could do, Carolina realized her calling. She wanted to be one of “The Cowboys of the Sky.”
The beginning of Carolina’s career had its obstacles. Her car gave out, and she had to wake up early every morning to ride the bus to work, often rising several hours before her work day began so she could drop her daughter off at day care.
“On the job training began when I first stepped on the job site. It was mental and physical. All my senses were on high alert to make sure what tasks I did were done well and showed that I wanted to be there and that I belonged there.
As an apprentice, I was the only women in the gang… My arrival on the job site meant behavior change. (ie: taking down calendars with naked women, using different language, stepping out of comfort zones, etc…)
Did I work my fair share? Was I worth the trouble?
I remember the sticker on a hard hat that said, ‘I won’t work with someone who squats to piss!’
I walked tall and fearless, focused on learning to work safe and efficient to make it another day and provide for my daughter. I gave no one permission to break me or make me feel like I did not belong there.” -Carolina Taylor
With such a hardworking mom as her example, Kat grew up to be self-sufficient. Obstacles weren’t so daunting—she had living proof of what was possible watching her mom overcome her own hardships.
It wasn’t until after Kat attended her first orientation that she told her mother that she too wanted to be an Ironworker. Carolina felt a rush of colliding emotions when she heard the news.
“I know what it’s like out there. So many feelings…proud, excited for her. I know she is capable of working in the field in a safe manner, however as her mother, I had to prepare myself in the event she got hurt. Being in the same union eased the fact that even though I was not working in the field with her, my brothers in the field that did work with her would let me know how she was doing and would keep an eye on her.” -Carolina Taylor
The Taylor women have come full circle in their work and personal lives. Carolina, who began her career after seeing how the Space Needle was built, worked on the recent remodeling of the structure. Kat became a Jorneyman Ironworker in 2018 and is now herself a loving mother and a first time homeowner.
Ironworker Carolina Taylor’s Advice for Aspiring Tradespeople:
take good care of yourself
spend quality time with your family
continue making goals to achieve the next positions as a union member (ie: business agent, organizer, union president, apprenticeship instructor, coordinator)
be a dream-chaser, goal-reacher, and butt-kicker
Carolina has taken her own advice, advancing her career as she kept her goals in mind. In 2013, she was asked to be an apprenticeship instructor, teaching fundamental trade skills to pre-apprentices and 1st year apprentices. In 2015, she was named Tradeswoman of the Year by Washington Women In Trades. Right now, she teaches a welding class for TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance) for Yakama Nation in Toppenish.
On top of it all, Carolina still works in the field, building the city she lives in, tapping into her inner strength and original intention for being on the job site in the first place. It is still a thrill to see the transformation generated by her own two hands, working together with the crew she now sees as part of the family.
If Carloina’s sacrifices and strength remind you of your mom, share this story with her and thank her for everything she’s done.
In 1999, Brit McCoy’s father, Paul Morrison planted the seedling that would turn his basement hobby into a flourishing business, The Wood Cycle. Brit was only 8 at the time, but those moments cemented in her a love for hard work and a respect for chasing you passions till they become the central pillars of your life. She would help her dad with small tasks like sanding, finishing, grounds keeping, and cleaning.
“Since day one The Wood Cycle has focused on urban trees. These trees, whether in someone’s backyard or on a fenceline in a farmer’s field, are coming out for reasons other than timber harvest. We work with arborists to get these trees removed, and the rest of the process we handle at our location. With this approach we’re able to utilize more of the tree; whether to burn scraps in our wood furnace for heat or using the sawdust for livestock bedding at my farm, we aim to dispose of our waste responsibly.
I have a table that my dad and I designed together. We call it the Stack Table. It’s a table designed to use our ‘shop scraps’, or the ‘cut offs’ from boards that were too warped to use in a project. We designed it together around a burning fire while we threw our scraps into the flame to heat our home. We always loved talking about new ideas and these caught our attention for some reason that night. That table is still one of our best sellers and our first prototype is in my home.” -Brit McCoy
Brit left her hometown to major in Landscape Architecture at Iowa State University. Upon returning to Oregon, Wisconsin, she and her husband Matt founded their own farm, first selling their ethically raised meat locally, eventually expanding their reach. You can even order a box of their fine products on her website: www.homesteadwisconsin.com.
At a young age, Brit’s eyes were opened to the reality of owning and operating a company. Her upbringing taught her “hard work and the down and dirty part of owning a business. Not every aspect of owning a small business is glamorous, but it is certainly rewarding to follow your passion!”
“My business started just like my father’s, to make our hobby our career. I started raising livestock as soon as I could afford to feed them. I started with sheep but always wanted to have cattle, now I have both because I realized I don’t want to choose one over the other. I had a degree in Landscape Architecture so raising our livestock on an all-grass system fit not only my educational background but also my desire to feed my livestock in a way that reflects nature. After starting the farm I realized I really still loved using the ‘design side’ of my brain so I transferred my media from computer drafting to designing flowers for weddings. The blend of farmer and florist is my perfect fit.” -Brit McCoy
Brit is a woman of many talents. She’s a full time farmer, running her own flower business, all the while working at The Wood Cycle. Making strides in her career alongside her family is the most challenging and most fulfilling part of the job.
“Working with family is incredibly rewarding. You’re working looking towards the same goal, the same future and are focused on the same dream. However, it does have some challenges when the family doesn’t see exactly eye-to-eye.
Urban wood is an incredibly beautiful way to share our stories with future generations. The urban trees we use in our shop have incredible ties to family stories and we love helping other families let their stories live on through fine furniture. We are honored to be a part of that process, tree to table.” -Brit McCoy