Young farmers rely on rich soil, natural techniques for great crops

Kate Debs and Joe Newman are the owners of Mighty Soil Farm in Chatham.

Story and photos by Katherine Larson
Kate Debs and Joe Newman chose the name of their Chatham farm the way they do everything: thoughtfully, practically and with passion. So “Mighty Soil Farm” it became. “The name encapsulates our ethic and our philosophy,” Newman said. Debs concurred, “It’s all about the soil.” Healthier soil builds healthier and more resilient plants, which in turn produce healthier and more delicious food. That, in a nutshell, is what Mighty Soil Farm does.
We often think of farmers as people who come from farming families, perhaps the descendants of farming immigrants. But that’s not necessarily so. Go to the Downtown Marquette Farmers’ Market and you’ll see vendors, young and old, who are making their way as first-generation farmers and helping to build a more sustainable community here.
Debs and Newman are one such pair. After studying marketing at Michigan State she found herself in New Orleans, working at a job she disliked. She started volunteering at an urban farm in the city and enjoyed it enough to save for a summer working on a farm in Vermont through a network called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Debs said, “It was wonderful. When I got back to New Orleans, I knew I wanted to do it again.” That winter, she took a job at a New Orleans food co-op. “That’s where I met Joe and we started dating. I already had plans to work on a farm near Ann Arbor that summer.”

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