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Stories: Teresa Kurtak and Farming Like the World Depends on It

Stories: Teresa Kurtak and Farming Like the World Depends on It

Teresa never imagined she'd be a farmer, but she always knew she wanted to change the world. After earning a master's degree in Social Documentary from UCSC, Teresa envisioned her career taking a different turn. And even though she spent part of her childhood living on a ranch in Eastern Washington (after being born and raised in the Cote d'Ivoire), it never dawned on her to start a farm of her own.

That was, until Teresa met her husband-to-be, Mike, at college and joined forces with their good friend, John, about turning their activist ambitions towards the land. The trio recognized that caring for the land was a tangible and meaningful way to have impact. 

“What we eat and how we grow our food is fundamental to creating a healthier world,” says Teresa. 

And so, the friends banded together to start Fifth Crow Farm, with the belief that sustainable agriculture can address our most pressing environmental and social issues. They scraped together funds and were fortunate enough to stumble upon a parcel of land for rent - not just any land, but land situated about 5 miles from spectacular coastline in Central California - and designed a growing practice to fit their ideals. They were going to build a farm that was economically viable, socially just, and ecologically sound. Fifteen years in, they’ve done just that. 

To start, the partners knew they needed a diverse operation. “It’s important to think of a farm as an ecosystem. If you just grow only one thing, wildlife can’t flourish; everything gets out of whack,” says Teresa. Bio-diversity is critical for any farm that wants to care for soil and nurture its community. And so the partners decided to plant everything from herbs to strawberries to organic heirloom beans. There are apple trees that produce 25 different varieties and hens that graze on a plentiful green diet (chicory, clover, alfalfa, grass…) and are rotated to different areas of the farm each week. “We barely break-even on the eggs that we sell,” says Teresa. “But, farms need animals. And we need to care well for everything that lives here.”



The partners got their organic certification from CCOF right away. As a small farm, this is an expensive and cumbersome undertaking. But it helped establish Fifth Crow’s values right out of the gate and offered a means of differentiating from neighboring monocropping farms. “Certification is a start, but there’s nothing in there that addresses social justice or how we treat workers,” says Teresa. “So, we make sure to pay long-standing workers above minimum wage, we offer health-care and sick leave, and take care of our team.”

Farming is a tough business. It takes grit, determination, and a generous spirit to be a true steward of the land. We’re continually blown away by the depth of knowledge of our partners - not just about farming, but about the world around them - and their unwavering ideals. Teresa’s no exception. She isn’t just farming. She’s farming because she knows the world depends on it.

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