Eve Minson was a successful New York City advertising executive. She also had a passion for horses. But pursuing her career and her passion put her in both the city and the country. The stress of that combination led to a resolution involving a change of careers—and her ultimately becoming a cutting-edge sustainable farmer.
“I used to work in advertising in New York City as my first career,” Minson recalled. “It was very meaningless but lucrative. I come from a longstanding Polish family that’s been farming for many, many generations. My mom was a gardener, and food and gardening was always somewhere in my life, although I was never directly connected with it. I was, however, a horse person, a very intensely driven equestrian, while I worked in New York City in advertising. I had this kind of schizophrenic, crazy life going, back and forth from urban to rural, and it didn’t make that much sense to me.”
She set out to rectify the paradox. “There was obviously something missing in my life. I thought, ‘What could be the most important thing that I could contribute to? What could my life stand for?’ At that time I was a total health-food nut, so I decided I was going to contribute to the reduction of pesticides in the food system—a pretty crazy thing to try to do. I don’t even know exactly where that idea came from, but that’s what I set out to do.”
It was a radical change. Minson applied to and was accepted at Cornell University. She quit her job, sold her house, bought a tiny farm in Ithaca, New York, and began attending Cornell, doing everything she could to learn about ecological horticulture and agriculture.
It was while she was at Cornell that she started learning about truly sustainable growing. “I worked in innovative pest management [IPM] at the very advent of it,” Minson said. “I and a mentor completely created an IPM program for Cornell greenhouses. At that time there was a call to minimize pesticides. So it was a really amazing opportunity and period for change.”
During her studies at Cornell, Minson also learned and developed methods for converting greenhouses that had been “toxic waste zones” of pesticides into growing environments teeming with beneficial organisms. “It was an unbelievably compelling time that set the tone for the rest of my career,” she said.
While focused on sustainable growing, that career has been quite broad. Minson became both a sustainable farmer and a landscape manager, utilizing biodynamic and organic pest management. She began exploring green landscape design and returned to school. She obtained another master’s degree, in natural resources, with an eye toward conservation design and planning.
As happened with many, the events of 9/11 changed the course of Minson’s life. “I was ready to get my PhD in landscape ecology, but 9/11 happened and it really derailed me,” she said. “I realized I had been in school for nine years, and it was time to take a break and do some other things. I started teaching green landscape design at Delaware Valley College in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where I still live.”
Minson began spending summers off from teaching growing food for herself, her partner and her community. She created a popular CSA and also set herself up as a sustainable landscape designer. All of that wasn’t enough, however; she has also been working for four years on the creation of a 400-acre community garden, in league with the Northeast Organic Farming Association.
A year ago Minson had the opportunity to add to her vast storehouse of knowledge when she enrolled in a class being given by Dan Kittredge, founder of the Bionutrient Food Association. “I have been using a kind of permaculture approach, an ecological approach to bringing landscapes back to life,” Minson explained. “I have used a lot of biodynamic preps on the landscapes that I managed and, of course, in my gardens. But Dan takes it many steps further.”
Kittredge has developed systems that treat soil as a living biological system, and his methods are aimed at vastly increasing the nutrient levels in our food supply.
“Dan starts out by stating that everything is energetics and everything has a vibration,” Minson continued. “In my viewpoint, unfortunately what we call modern science—and what the typical land-grant college teaches as agronomy and so on—is bereft of life. We have accepted it as being mainstream, so things have gotten pretty significantly skewed.
“Connecting with Dan has reminded me of what I thought a very long time ago, and I really wanted to get back to bringing that kind of approach to my management as both a farmer and a designer, and as a thinker: understanding that things live on many different levels and different layers all at the same time.”
The Remarkable Results
“My farm was not particularly worn out or anything like that; I was growing nice plants and doing okay,” said Minson. “But incorporating Dan’s methods, I just saw a tremendous change in how robust and resilient my plants are, how productive my plants are, how my plants just grow to unusual heights and girth and that kind of stuff, which tells me they’re very happy. That, to me, produces extraordinarily healthy food, which goes in our bodies and makes us extraordinarily healthy. That’s what we all want—a happy food system!”
The nutritional levels in the food cultivated with Dan’s methods produced a remarkable encounter at her farm, which she frequently uses as an example. “A friend of a friend, an older woman in her sixties, came to visit the farm,” Minson related. “I ended up walking her through the garden and giving her some kale, gold tomatoes, a whole bunch of grains, and all kinds of stuff.
“She called me the next day and left a message that said, ‘I have to talk to you!’ I returned her call and she told me, ‘I started driving home and I began picking at some of the food that was there. Then I just started shoving it in my mouth and eating and eating and eating! And I thought, “My God, what’s wrong with me? I’m not even hungry! What’s happening?” I realized there’s something in your food that hasn’t been in my body for years. Whatever this is, Eve, you have to tell everybody! You have to do more!’
“I think that what she experienced is exactly on the mark,” Minson concluded. “Much of the food that she’s been eating for a long time is missing these minerals, and there’s a vibrational thing: this food is ‘on fire.’ It is alive and it’s in your body and it’s very different from stuff being shipped across the country and sitting and waiting to be eaten for five days, and God knows what’s happened to it.”
And that is the true beginning of a food system transformed.
For more information on the Bionutrient Food Association, please visit www.bionutrient.org.