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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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