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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Rachel Larsen // Filmmaker

She may be an actor, photographer, and award-winning filmmaker, but Rachel Larsen is no drama queen. 

Though she attended the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts (where Robert Redford and Grace Kelly are among her star-studded fellow alumni), her sweetness and humility reveal her Texas roots. And she wouldn’t tell you this upon first meeting her, but this year, Larsen directed and produced her first solo film, All There Is, a documentary for which she recently won Best Director at the Nice International Film Festival in Nice, France.

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Here is Rachel herself to tell you more about how she moves the world.


BB: You were homeschooled. Do you think that that influenced your career path?

RL: Oh, definitely. Creativity and magic were amidst everything we did — in school and outside of it. Elementary school reading hour finished with the grand notion to create “Rox-a-Boxen” in our backyard, based on the picture book of the same name. My mom even let us lug her nice china to “sell” in the “grocery store.” Which was across from the flower shop, of course.

I saw everything in a magical light because I was continually getting the opportunity to grow my imagination. It was like I was given the ability, but more importantly, the choice, to see the world for the beauty that it is.

My entire childhood of fairies and homemade family films and freshly baked bread have all come together to create the artist and person I am today.

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BB: Lots of entrepreneurs and young professionals say they experience “impostor syndrome.” Do you ever feel that way? And if so, what do you do about it?

RL: I certainly have in the past. Actually, let me be quite candid and say that I am continually and actively working against those negative voices that want to say I’m less than I am.

The thing is, I’ve always known I was meant to be an artist. The title of “artist,” however, is varied and confusing, so, naturally, I’ve gotten a little lost in translation at moments. Acting school was marvelous and probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But because it made you reach those moments of the rawest and scariest truth that you’ve ever been brave enough — or pushed enough by a screaming Polish acting instructor — to reach. But that’s because we had to reach those moments — ones of sobbing your eyes out, either in an exercise or after class — and most of the time, the reasoning for me was because I wasn’t meeting my own expectation of myself. Which I realize now is a whole load of bogus horse**** because I, as well as you, have everything we need within us.

We always have a choice. And I am always striving to choose compassion and love over fear and judgment.

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BB: Tell me about making documentaries.

RL: I had a fabulous experience creating my feature documentary, All There Is.

When I picked up the camera for the first time, I had no idea what I was creating. I just knew I had to do this. I was in a place in my life with a lot of uncertainties, especially in one romantic relationship. As one does when they’re questioning the last several months of their life, I picked up a camera. I didn’t even know why I was filming. I just knew what I wanted to capture and why. That was my only sightline. I never planned anything. I just filmed everything.

Which I’m sure is quite the opposite of most documentary filmmaker’s processes. But I was in a f***-it mood.

And this f***-it mood turned into a full-length documentary, with an arc and journey I wasn’t expecting. So you best believe I said a lot of grateful thanks to my intuition, which I was blindly following.

Making films for me is a very spiritual process. I’m an avid believer in Buddhist principles and truths and attempt to implement the moment-by-moment beauty and peace I have found into every shot.

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BB: What movie have most people not seen but really need to watch?

RL: The popularity of Blue Jasmine with Cate Blanchett certainly wasn’t as hyped as it should have been. Beautiful movie, heart-stopping acting.

But, if I’m being honest, The 10th Kingdom starring Kimberly Williams. It’s the best worst movie.

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BB: What does one do at the Nice Film Festival? Is it as fancy as I am imagining it to be? And what was Cannes like?

RL: Okay, I’m not going to lie, the phrase, “Wow, this feels so fancy” did cross my mind. More than once. VIP Badges at both Cannes and Nice. We took fancy photos on red carpets. Cannes had about twenty yachts with parties happening outside. I filmed my first interview with Steve Grossmith of FILM the Magazine at Nice. I was in a whirlwind of, I can’t believe this is happening. And especially, now. And I get to experience it with incredible people whom I love very much. Wow, what a life.

BB: You decided to pursue directing over acting, at least for the time being. Why’s that?

RL: I’ve always been an explorer. Whether it was watching a ladybug on a leaf at age five or trekking to France for a couple of film festivals, I love the unknown and the thrill of independence that comes from doing something a little outside my comfort zone.

I felt a different pulling to pursuing film for a bit. Plus, I wanted the technical training that comes from going to school for film. I’m still going to act, but one can always learn and grow more, and I’m excited to explore this new side of my artistic pursuits.

BB: What can you tell other people who dream of acting and directing?

RL: GO FOR IT! If it brings you joy and peace whenever you daydream about it, but more importantly if it gives you peace when you create something put it into action, then it’s meant for you. I’ve sat in my bed at 3 AM with a cup of tea at age 20 after a day of long auditions and an eight-hour shift and thought, “Ah, am I really meant to do this?” And I found out an instant later, the answer came ringing back to me with complete sincerity.

“Yes! If it makes you happy, do it. Ding ding.”

Wow, thank you, emotional guidance system!

P.S. Beware the reasoning for which you want to do it. Intention is important.

BB: How would you describe yourself?

RL: A singing-in-the-store, and dancing-in-the-rain type of human! Movie fans, get the references?

I’ve always been dedicated and passionate, two things that overflow. I have taken that too far in the past and not given myself room to breathe. I’m trying to do better at self-care and trusting that relaxation — or a face mask — is an important part of life.

I smile a lot. People sometimes think I’m putting on a fake happy face, but legit, I’m just happy. So whatever, I’ll just go meditate.

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BB: What motivates you?

RL: The sunlight. I’m not even kidding. It gives me energy, it soothes me, it heals me. And sometimes the sun can replace coffee for me.

I said sometimes.

Seeing really good films motivates me, as well as witnessing jaw-dropping acting. Beauty inspires me, but usually when it’s at its most natural, for example, a mountain in the distance.

BB: What makes you feel like a badass?

RL: Doing yoga. And surpassing where I was in my last practice. I always try to get in the groove and improve a little every single time.

Eating delicious, healthy, plant-based food makes me feel like a badass. Because I am fueling my body with what it naturally desires most. Combined with B-12 supplements, spirulina, in addition to a wide array of complete plant-based proteins, vegetables, fruits, etc.

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Traveling makes me feel like a badass. Discovering new cultures, trying new foods, seeing new places, meeting new people.

Also, embracing myself, in all my strengths, and weaknesses, and reveling in the beauty we all have inside us makes me feel like a badass! I want everyone to feel like a badass. Cause you should!

BB: What’s your dream trivia round?

RL: The 7 Chakras And How To Cleanse Them  / Harry Potter

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

RL: Lots of love to Micah Larsen and the Badasserie Blog and all the amazing women out there!!! Keep being badasses!


Book a photography session with Rachel Larsen at rachel.kirsten.larsen@gmail.com.

Learn more about Rachel here or visit her Facebook page here.

Note: Rachel Larsen is the author’s sister-in-law

Rachel Larsen
Badasserie author Micah Larsen and Rachel Larsen