Hannah Grey // Viticulturist

On a misty morning amidst the rolling hills of a midwestern vineyard, you’ll find Hannah Grey atop a rolling tractor, monitoring the climate and moisture of her surroundings and preparing the native land to grow Missouri’s most perfect grapes.

Hannah is a

grape chemist

wine scientist 

badass farmer

viticulturist.

If you’ve ever enjoyed a nice glass of Merlot or Chardonnay, you’ve got a viticulturist like Hannah to thank. Viticulturists are responsible for the scientific care and monitoring of vineyards, and as one of the few women in her field (excuse the pun), Hannah is busy blazing a trail as part-chemist, part-farmer, 100% badass.

Not to mention that she’s a super-talented singer, but we’ll get to that later.

Here’s Hannah herself to tell you more about how she moves the world:


BB: Hannah, you’re a chemicals supervisor and vineyard farmer at Mount Pleasant Estates in Augusta, Missouri. You said that means you spend most of your days on a tractor. Tell us about your day job.

HG: That’s right! I work on the viticulture side of things, so the chemicals that I handle are to for the plants themselves, not the wine. I use my tractor daily to spray our crops, mow, and harvest, etc. We have about 70 acres of vineyards with several different varieties. It’s my job to make sure our grapes stay happy and healthy for harvest.

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Photo courtesy of Hannah Grey

BB: Vineyards seem to be a pretty regional thing, so not everyone knows what it’s like to spend time at one. Is working at a vineyard as glamorous as it sounds?

HG: Yes and no. No in that it can be very hard physical work. It’s farming, after all, so it’s dirty and sometimes pretty physically demanding.

But, on the other hand, and more importantly to me, having the opportunity to spend every day outside in our fields totally allows me to become an active part of my natural, living surroundings, which I think many of us lack these days. It allows me to feel connected to not only the plants that I nurture but to everything alive around me.

There is much to appreciate within that instinctive connection to nature.

BB: We often hear that women are few and far between in science-based jobs like chemistry or viticulture. Do you find that you’re in the gender minority?

HG: For sure. It’s really rewarding to break the stereotype that farming is a man’s job. I certainly enjoy the challenge in the work I do.

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Photo courtesy of Hannah Grey

BB: You moonlight as a musician. Tell me about that.

HG: I do! I’m currently working as a vocalist with two projects. The Paulosmallband is a four-piece led by my friend and mentor Paul Oviatt, along with friends Rebecca Mayer, Pat O’Donnell and myself as a vocalist. We cover a wide variety of tunes from nearly every genre and we really have a lot of fun together.

My personal pet project is the Hannah Grey Duo, also with Paul. I like to think of this sound as a unique combination of folk and jazz. We’re currently working on some new original music that I think is going to be really nice.

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From left: Paul Oviatt, Grey, Rebecca Mayer, Pat O’Donnell. Photo courtesy of Hannah Grey.

BB: What inspired your interest in music and in your genre?

HG: I’ve been a lover of music for as long as I can remember. I started playing the saxophone at age ten (I’m 34 now) and I’ve pretty much been a musician ever since. I started singing and playing sax in my early twenties for an indie rock band. Since then, I have focused primarily on vocals and have worked in many different genres like rock, hip-hop, jazz, EDM (electronic dance music), folk, even a full-length album of songs for children.

I like playing around with different genres because it’s always fun for me to try things I’ve never tried before. At my core, I think I’ve always had a jazz soul. I love all the old greats like Etta James, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and the like. Amy Winehouse is another one of my favorites.

I love the loose, abstract nature of jazz. But I’m also gaining a real appreciation for the rawness and humanity of folk music.

I view my music as I do my work; I’m at my best when I’m challenged.

BB: I’m a native Missourian and I know many folks consider it a flyover state. Do you feel that way?

HG: I might have thought so before I moved here, but I don’t feel that way at all now. I live in Augusta which is about 40 miles west of St. Louis. We’re in the heart of the Missouri River bottoms and directly on the Katy Trail State Park. We have some of the prettiest scenery in the Midwest.

Of course, there are the staples like St. Louis and the Lake of the Ozarks, but Missouri has so many great communities of artists, musicians, and genuinely interesting, kind people. Tons of great hiking trails, not to mention over 100 wineries. I really think Missouri has much more to offer than people realize.

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Photo courtesy of Hannah Grey

BB: Folk music and wine are pretty central to the Missouri culture. Do you think you’re helping people appreciate the Midwest?

HG: I hope so! Folk music and wine are timeless. With both my work and my music, I get to make something that brings people together and makes people happy. That makes me happy.

BB: What motivates you?

HG: My loved ones motivate me, for sure. Making people feel good motivates me. I’m an empathic, sensitive soul; making others feel happy literally fuels my own happiness. That can be a hard thing for some folks to understand, but compassion is a huge part of who I am.

If I can sing to a crowd and touch even one person’s soul in a positive way, then I’ve done my job.

BB: What inspires you?

HG: Nature. Love. Heartache. Happiness, contentment. The softness in a warm, foggy morning. My family. Conversations with my best friend. Rainbows on my bedroom ceiling when the early sun hits the prism in the window just right.

Did I say love?

BB:  What makes you feel like a badass?

HG: The fact that I’ve worked my way to a place where I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing.

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Photo courtesy of Hannah Grey

BB: What’s your dream trivia category?

HG: Definitely Seinfeld. I’d rule.

BB: Is there anything else you would like to add?

HG: I’d like to thank you, Micah, not only for featuring me but for providing such an awesome platform for women to share their badass-ness! You lift us up and give us power. We need more women like you. Thanks again!


Learn more about Missouri’s rich wine culture here.

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Author Micah Larsen is a persuasion scientist and consultant. Her job is to teach people how to use subtle persuasion in their emails, conversations, and campaigns to get others to say “yes.”

Watch one of her short persuasion how-to videos of $9.97 value for free here using code:

BADASSERIE

 

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Jennifer Knoetgen // Mountain Meat Shares

It’s not a stretch to say that, for me, biting into my first Montana-grown, locally-butchered pork chop was like a religious experience.

Jennifer Knoetgen knows that feeling better than pretty much anyone. An accountant by trade but a homesteader by choice, she started Mountain Meat Shares as a passion project. It wasn’t long before it became something bigger.

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Now, Jennifer serves families in the Missoula area with boxes of local chicken, beef, and pork on a subscription basis. Her customers are well-fed, have a smaller carbon footprint, and know where their meat comes from.

On the Mountain Meat Shares website, Jennifer says that one of her most basic beliefs is that “farm animals, while their ultimate fate might well be your table, should live their lives peacefully, with their needs met, and their days spent outdoors as much as possible.”

What more could you possibly want from your dinner?

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Jennifer sprays down the pig pen so they can create their own wallow to keep cool in the summer.

 

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Here’s Jennifer herself to tell you more about how she moves the world.


BB: You’re a farmer. Was that an unexpected part of your career path or were you always heading that direction?

JK: I think I would call myself a homesteader since the food we grow here at our place in Arlee, Montana is mostly for our own household and not for commercial purposes. I grew up next to my grandparents’ farm and spent my days taking care of animals and always knowing where my food came from.

I developed a deep satisfaction of caring for animals by learning from the practices of animal husbandry from my grandparents.

[They] were Slovenian immigrants and grew nearly all of the food we ate. By the time I came along, they were retired from dairy farming, but we still had a few pigs each year, raised calves for resale, had our own milk, butter, vegetables and fruit, eggs, chicken, and beef. The farm was tidy, the animals clean and happy. I learned that their daily care came first, and it was hard work, but even as a kid, it felt satisfying. We didn’t waste and butchered all of our own animals. When I think back, I have been slaughtering meat chickens since I was probably eight years old!

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One of Jennifer’s Plymouth Rock barred chickens. Her chickens eat kitchen scraps and insects and lay brown eggs.

BB: What led you to create Mountain Meat Shares?

JK:  When friends and visitors to my farm saw how happy and healthy our meat animals were, they just intuitively wanted to have a part of it. I couldn’t commercially produce that kind of volume, and so sourcing the animals from farmers I trust and have a relationship with was a way for me to deliver that food to others.

BB: Mountain Meat Shares is a CSA. What does that mean?

JK: CSA stands for community-supported agriculture. In most cases, it means a customer is making an investment in and taking a risk with the farmer in the upcoming growing season.

There are a variety of ways a CSA can be configured. I would say MMS is like a  CSA in that we are sourcing whole animals from the farmers and the customer isn’t choosing specific cuts or varieties as you would buy at a grocery.

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Jennifer has two goats, Willow and Mina. Willow and Mina will soon be old enough to breed and produce milk. For now, they enjoy eating raspberries and following Jennifer around the farm.

BB: Do you think CSAs are the future of food?

JK: Not likely. There is too much demand by the larger population for choice, convenience, and price. But I do think that the changes and awareness that small, local farms bring will influence customer behavior and future demands of the large food systems.

BB: What differences would people notice if they replaced their mass-produced meat with locally-grown products?

JK: Taste! Animals [raised] outdoors as much as possible, on pasture under the sun, absorb the nutrients from our soil, stretch their muscles the way they were designed to, and just taste better.

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If you live in the Missoula area, subscribe to Mountain Meat Shares here.

BB: What can we all do to reduce our carbon footprint with our food?

JK: Don’t waste! So much energy, water, transportation, land use and carbon goes into our food, and as households, we throw so much of it away. I’m planning a blog post about this soon because I think I’m hardwired to despise waste and wasting food — at all levels of production, distribution, and consumption– just doesn’t make sense.

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BB: What’s it like to turn a passion project into a business?

JK: Fun and exciting. It’s invigorating to take something I’m passionate about — local food — and bring it to the marketplace to actually help families make the farm-to-table connection.

BB: What’s your favorite part of entrepreneurship?

JK: Making all of the decisions myself. Be they good or bad, they’re all mine!

BB: You’re a horsewoman. Is that what you like to do with your free time?

JK: Yes! I have been involved with horses my whole life and they are a challenge but I also have a deeply satisfying relationship with them.

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Riding is one of the ways I connect to the wilderness and take in the seasons and the wildlife that surrounds us.

Although I have had many limitations to my involvement with horses over the years, it’s something I just can’t not do.

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Jennifer and her Arabian gelding, Highlander.
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Highlander wears a fly mask to protect his eyes from insects.

BB: What inspires you?

JK: People working hard outside of the box.

I have little tolerance for excuses and following the herd, so when I meet people making efforts to better their lives, in whatever way that might be for them, I am inspired.

BB:  What makes you feel like a badass?

JK: Bucking the norms and working hard and being resourceful.

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Jennifer grew a patch of wildflowers in her front yard to attract pollinators like honeybees.

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BB: What’s your dream trivia category?

JK: Substitute ingredients.

BB: Like?

JK: On occasion, if a dessert calls for just a small amount of heavy cream, I’ll use half and half. Certainly walnuts in pesto instead of pine nuts.

BB: Is there anything else you would like to add?

JK: Thank you for inviting me!

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Jennifer often rides her Arabian mare, Sundance, into the nearby mountains.

Contact Jennifer at 406.880.3083 or at info@mountainmeatshares.com


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Author Micah Larsen is a persuasion scientist and consultant. Her job is to teach people how to use subtle persuasion in their emails, conversations, and campaigns to get others to say “yes.”

Watch one of her short persuasion how-to videos of $9.97 value for free here using code:

BADASSERIE