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Elise Margoles

Elise MargolesElise grew up in a small town in Maine. Not until she was in college, studying international development and spending a semester abroad in Zimbabwe, did she begin to consider food politics and policies. In Zimbabwe, Elise began comparing traditional farming to large corporate growing methods. Her initial plan was to work with non-profits or NGOs to promote sustainable practices. However, she came to believe that what she really wanted was to return to the US and "live the model" in which she herself believed.

Elise's move into farming has a practical progression, ever motivated by the passion to achieve a "good quality of life" and the desire to prove the viability of small, sustainable farming. Elise interned at Slack Hollow in upstate New York, where she learned the value of efficiency. While there she participated in the CRAFT program, an educational exchange for interns through a collective of organic farms, which taught her that "there is not one right way to farm." Interning at Sustenance Farm in Bear Creek, North Carolina, she gained knowledge about general ecology and supportive communities. She then took a business class and wrote a detailed farm plan with a five year cost projection, which convinced family members to invest in her future farm.

In 2001, Elise bought forty-five acres in Cedar Grove. Named Elysian Fields by a friend, the land is about half wooded, has numerous open fields, and a spring-fed three acre pond--"about everything [Elise] was looking for." In only two years there, Elise has built a thriving CSA and a solid market customer base. She praises this area's support of local food systems, and is equally appreciative of her immediate farming community, conventional and organic. A number of organic growers live near Cedar Grove; Elise says they socialize, "exchange tools and implements, ideas, as well as support each other."

She and her partner plan to build a house on the farm and have children--she even hopes to move her mom there eventually--but the two are happy for now living in their ten by twenty cabin with five cats and two dogs. "It's a little tight," she laughs. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of her greenhouse, petting her dog, she says confidently, "I think it is totally feasible to have a profitable small scale farm and still be living the way you want to live."

—Tes Thraves, 2003

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