Spotlight: Sean McBride

Spotlight: Sean McBride

Horticulture is just one piece of the puzzle 

Our team is dedicated to the mission of providing global access to safe food, but that’s not the only thing that makes them an asset to our team. It’s their motivation to make a difference in many different areas, breaking barriers, and tapping into hobbies that make them better versions of themselves. We’re all here to learn and to evolve and to help each other get to (wherever it is) we want to go. 

  1. Go back to your childhood. What did you want to be when you grew up?
    • I originally wanted to get into Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) to grow pearls. There are so many separate steps that you can control better than in an open water environment. If you could better manage these environments, the idea is you could produce much higher quality pearls (on average), and in a shorter period of time. It’s this that actually led me to falling in love with CEA and ultimately going back to school for a professional science master’s degree at the University of Arizona.

     

  2. What’s your motivation for being a farmer today?
      • What I like most about CEA is the ability to decide exactly the conditions a crop receives. Ideally you should be able to get the crop to do exactly what you want it to do. The fun part comes in understanding the system you are working with and which environmentals to control in order to get the desired outcome. Every CEA system is different and those differences play a large role in the strategies you can take to achieve your goals.
      • Our setup at vertical roots allows us to have relatively precise control over almost every environmental condition you could want to work with. Our system also automatically records so much data and across a large number of pods. Combine that control, collection, and space to work with and you have a recipe for some pretty rapid testing abilities. I’ve really been enjoying the aspect of being able to test out multiple different control strategies. I wouldn’t have this kind of opportunity at any other company operating today.

     

  3. What has been your most memorable moment with VR?
      • Most memorable moment was my first hurricane. Everyone came together to harvest an entire week’s worth of pods in like a day or two. It was nice to be able to farm with people who usually only worked in the office. We had so many people working it all went by really quickly and it was nice to kinda all come together in that moment.

     

  4. What people, movies, or books inspire you?
      • Science Fiction is usually my go to when it comes to books. I grew up reading Asimov, Dick, Gibson, and Vonnegut. Anything that looks to the future and especially those that take place in a world with technology that we don’t have yet. I guess that’s also what drew me to CEA to begin with. We’re literally living in a sci-fi novel in this industry.

     

  5. If you could make one change to the food system, what would it be?
      • Educating consumers about what the organic label actually means. A good number of people who buy organic food believe they are purchasing food which has used no pesticides. This isn’t true. Many organic producers actually use more pesticides by volume than traditional agriculture. This is because there are a number of approved pesticides, but they’re typically less effective (so you have to apply more of them to get the same effect). Basically, if a label doesn’t say the product is pesticide free, they probably used pesticides. CEA is one of the best places to get pesticide free products.

     

  6. Favorite local nonprofit?
    • The Surfrider Foundation.

     

  7. What would you tell someone who wants to pursue a career in agriculture?
    • I wouldn’t be where I am today without having attended The University of Arizona and the Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. Research has been going on in this industry for decades and CEA programs are a wealth of knowledge. There are a lot of things you can just never learn on your own or without a teacher. Find a university with a number of different programs that are in or around the type of CEA you want to get into. This is a growing industry, and it’ll be hard not to find a job once you have a degree.

     

  8. Now the hard one: Favorite type of lettuce? 
      • Romaine types. I like our Gem blend (Baby Romaine) the best.

     

  9. What do you like doing outside of work?
    • More plants. I have been getting really into cactus propagation recently. I still go to Arizona often, and it’s a little way to stay connected with that place.
    Farmer Spotlight: Kindall Brantley

    Farmer Spotlight: Kindall Brantley

    Farming is just one piece of the puzzle 

    Our team is dedicated to the mission of providing global access to safe food, but that’s not the only thing that makes them an asset to our team. It’s their motivation to make a difference in many different areas, breaking barriers, and tapping into hobbies that make them better versions of themselves. We’re all here to learn and to evolve and to help each other get to (wherever it is) we want to go. 

    1. Go back to your childhood. What did you want to be when you grew up? 
      • That’s a complicated question, when I was little I wanted to be everything: Scientist, Zoologist, Creative Writer – I even wanted to live on a farm in montana.
    2. What’s your motivation for being a farmer today? 
      • Feeding people locally grown food and companies that are practicing sustainability are big motivators for me.
    3. What has been your most memorable moment with Vertical Roots?
      • The company picnic on Daniel Island. It was great to hangout with team members from all companies and locations.
    4. What people, movies, or books inspire you?
      • Michael Pollan and Paul Stamets (mycologist) are both incredible thinkers and writers related to agriculture, but the writings of Audre Lorde inspire me in every aspect of life!
    5. If you could make one change to the food system, what would it be?
      • I would make access to healthy food easier and cheaper to fix the problem of food insecurity.
    6. Favorite local nonprofit?
      • The Green Heart Project.
    7. What would you tell someone who wants to pursue a career in agriculture?
      • I would tell them the work can be challenging but more than rewarding. Changing the food system for the good of everyone is definitely worth it!
    8. What would you tell someone looking to live more sustainably?
      • I would recommend starting with food responsibility, which encompasses knowing where your food is coming from, supporting local food systems, and responsibly disposing of waste.
    9. Now the hard one: Favorite type of lettuce?
      • Lowcountry Blend!
    10. What do you like doing outside of work?
      • Getting creative by drawing.
    Farmer Spotlight: Ashleigh Burgess

    Farmer Spotlight: Ashleigh Burgess

    Farming is just one piece of the puzzle 

    Our team is dedicated to the mission of providing global access to safe food, but that’s not the only thing that makes them an asset to our team. It’s their motivation to make a difference in many different areas, breaking barriers, and tapping into hobbies that make them better versions of themselves. We’re all here to learn and to evolve and to help each other get to (wherever it is) we want to go. 

    1. Go back to your childhood. What did you want to be when you grew up? 
      • When I was little, I wanted to be a princess but realistically I wanted to be an agriculture teacher!
    2. What’s your motivation for being a farmer today? 
      • What motivates me to be a farmer is my love for agriculture and educating others on the importance of where our food comes from.
    3. What has been your most memorable moment with VR?
      • My favorite part of VR is how we’ve become a big family and it makes me look forward to going to work everyday to see my best friends.
    4. What people, movies, or books inspire you?
      • The people that inspire me are all the women in agriculture. You don’t have to be a man to farm or drive heavy machinery.
    5. If you could make one change to the food system, what would it be?
      • If I could make one change to the food system, it would be transparency. People want to know where their food is coming from, what’s in it, and how long it took to get from farm to shelf.
    6. Favorite local nonprofit?
      • My favorite local nonprofit is Feed My Sheep because they provide food, clothing, and will help find homes for veterans, homeless, and families in need.
    7. What would you tell someone who wants to pursue a career in agriculture?
      • To anyone wanting a career in agriculture, I would tell them if they put their heart into it every single day, it is the most rewarding career you will ever find.
    8. What would you tell someone looking to live more sustainably?
      • For someone wanting to live more sustainably, I would tell them to think about how much energy they are using everyday at home. Unplug your appliances, turn off the lights, turn down the heater and use a blanket instead.
    9. Now the hard one: Favorite type of lettuce?
      • My favorite type of lettuce is Rouxai!
    10. What do you like doing outside of work?
      • I enjoy welding!

    Meet Your Farmer: Makenna

    Meet Your Farmer: Makenna

    Nature-loving, Outdoorsy, and Adventurous 

    I took a deep dive into Makenna’s life while enjoying some of her fresh shishito peppers and hummus. That’s the thing about Makenna… she opens your mind to new things (or maybe I’m just late to the shishito pepper game. Either way, they were delicious).

    Being from Boulder, Colorado, Makenna has always been an nature-loving, outdoorsy, adventurous woman. So, when she came to the College of Charleston, she was shocked to see that her roommates didn’t recycle… didn’t compost… left the water running extra long before hopping in the shower… All things that were second nature to her weren’t commonplace here. So what did Makenna do? Introduced new, eco-friendly habits to her friends. Furthermore, she started volunteering and eventually interning with the Green Heart Project while getting her degrees in Biology and Environmental Science. She truly took Urban Ag to the next level by taking otherwise forgotten areas of campus and turning them into gardens, working with the grounds department, running a compost drop off location on campus, and receiving a grant to start a worm compost on campus.

    The Love of Farming

    Fast forward to her college graduation and her asking herself… what now? Why not travel Southeast Asia for 3 months and learn more about their farming practices?! While traveling, hiking, visiting beaches, and exploring the culture, Makenna spent two weeks volunteering at two different farms, which was organized through WWOOF. Her immediate take away from her experience was how vital their farming operations were. Without their farms, they couldn’t feed their families; it truly comes down to survival. She was grateful for the opportunity to not just pass through and get a glimpse of their culture, but to actually live, understand, and experience their world.

    Joining the Vertical Roots Family

    Fast forward one more time to how she came onboard at Vertical Roots. She knew she wanted to plant her roots (see what I did there?) in Charleston, so she accepted an insurance job knowing it wasn’t where her heart belonged, but it was a learning experience. While working full time, she got back into the AG world by working at the downtown farmers market and building her own home aquaponics system. She got wind of what was happening at Vertical Roots and immediately got in touch.

    Turns out, persistence really does pay off! Makenna started at Vertical Roots in August of 2018 as a farmer. In her short time here, she’s already making moves and is currently transitioning to Site Supervisor. She has loved seeing the growth (there’s now triple the number of farmers than when she started!) and loves feeling empowered to present ideas to people who actually want to hear them and who make every effort to implement them.

    She loves coming to work every day. She loves the opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally. She loves being a part of a growing company that values sustainability. She loves her teammates and the contagious passion that permeates our culture. And she can’t wait to see where the next 7 months… and 7 years… take her here.

    Stay tuned, for our next Farmer Spotlight – Mary!