Know Your Local Farmer | Eli Zimmer

Square Roots | 07.12.19

Our Next-Gen Farmers operate next-level technology, grow delicious food, and do it all in the middle of cities. We think that’s pretty cool. So every few weeks we spotlight their perspectives on food, farming, and how the industry is changing for the better. Go ahead, get to know your local farmer. →

Next-Gen Farmer Eli Zimmer

Has farming always been a part of your life, and if not, what led you to this career?

Farming hasn’t always been a part of my life, but gardening and a farm adjacent world has. Some of my first memories are of helping my father, an avid gardener, bed prep, weed, and harvest from our family garden. The summertime meals, straight from our backyard, are the memories that I hold closest.

In addition to gardening with my father, going to my grandparents farm in Quakertown, Pennsylvania was a constant. One of my favorite things to do as a small kid was have my dad take the tractor out and ride through the fields with him. I believe these early experiences were formative and have had an impact on my decision to follow agriculture as a career path.

Although gardening and farming were around me growing up, I didn’t seriously consider a career in agriculture until I applied for, and completed, a season long sustainable vegetable farming apprenticeship at MSU Tollgate Extension Farm in Novi, Michigan, under Will JaQuinde. I left with not only a foundation of knowledge in sustainable farming practices and plant science, but also an understanding that farming is a trade that gives me a deep sense of satisfaction. It’s a job with a certain degree of physicality, that is ever changing, and where problem solving is a constant. I realized I enjoy being connected to food, plants, and nature. To answer the question, there isn’t one thing that led me to a career in agriculture. It’s a combination of curiosity, exploration, and application, that is ongoing to this day.

How has becoming a farmer impacted your point of view?

The largest impact to my point of view has been on my general relationship to food. My point of view to food prior to working as an apprentice was, “What do I want to eat now?” Now, this question is more often, “Where was this grown?” and “What farming practices were used?” Prior to farming, I don’t think I ever questioned where my food was grown, who grew it, or how they grew it. I generally care more about what I am putting in my body now, and how it got to my plate in the first place.

In 10 words or less, what are your hopes for a better food system?

Innovative, yet holistic approach to feeding the masses.

Next-Gen Farmer Eli Zimmer giving a tour to students at Square Roots Brooklyn.

Favorite local restaurant?

Chilos―Best tacos around, right in the heart of Bed-Stuy.

Go-to news publication?

PhillyVoice (no paywall) or BBC Español to hone my Spanish.

Best thing to do in NYC on the weekend?

Brunch anywhere, then Dumbo Flea market.

You can follow along with Eli Zimmer on Instagram @eliasthefarmer and learn more about our Next-Gen Farmer Training Program on the Square Roots website.

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