Meet Daniel Grover ‘12, a farming and cheesemaking extraordinaire! Daniel first got his start farming as a camp counselor for the FARM Institute on Martha’s Vineyard and knew he wanted to be involved with the college farm once returning to campus his senior year fall. On his first day of classes senior year, Daniel rode his bike out to the farm and helped Farm Director Jenn Halpin pick tomatoes. From there he set up a regular volunteer schedule and started volunteering on the farm every week in exchange for veggies until he became a paid farm employee for the rest of his senior year and an apprentice that summer.
After leaving the farm, Daniel and a friend Scott Hoffman (also a DCF apprentice in his year) moved to central New York to start a small vegetable operation (CSA and farmers’ market) at Northland Sheep Dairy. There they learned to drive draft horses from their mentor and friend Donn Hewes. Since then, Daniel has worked on a mix of vegetable CSA and full diet farms in New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Daniel also lived in Pittsburgh for a year and a half and worked for Small Farm Central, a company that builds software for CSA management. However, Daniel missed farming and being outside and so decided to move back to the northeast and continue to farm. He’s also worked with Farm Hack, the Draft Animal Power Network, and the National Young Farmers Coalition.
For the past two years Daniel has been living and working at Vermont Shepherd, a sheep dairy and creamery in Southern Vermont. At Vermont Shepherd he farms and makes cheese as well as helps out with marketing. They make about 30,000 lbs/year of sheep and blended sheep and cow cheeses which are cave-aged, natural-rind, raw milk cheeses. Daniel is also planning his own farm business — a worker cooperative creamery and dairy to be located in Western Massachusetts. He is currently searching for land and collaborators and writing his business plan.
Daniel says that his experience at the college farm was foundational to his farming journey in many ways. Most importantly, being an apprentice convinced him that he wanted to pursue farming as a career. Working at the farm also helped him to gain perspective about what kind of agriculture he wanted to do, connected him with a lot of the agriculture-related organizations which he’s worked with and used as resources over the years, and inspired his passion for farming. Daniel is still in touch with the folks he worked with on the farm and loves being a part of the network of Dickinson farmers. Daniel says that he learned so much at the farm — from how to drive tractors, to how to run a farmer’s market booth, to how to manage irrigation, to how to make biogas.
In addition to farming, Daniel is also involved in community/organizing work in Vermont and Western Massachusetts. He is part of a mutual aid project to send books to incarcerated folks and is becoming active in anti-racist and immigrant workers’ rights organizing. He’s a part of a vibrant radical, queer, Jewish community, many of whom are organizing mutual aid and solidarity projects in the community. Daniel and his partner are developing a land-based social movement resource space which will be co-located on the same land as the farm. They’re hoping that they can support the work of some of the many community projects in the area by providing physical space, access to facilitation and other resources, and delicious food.
When asked about one of his favorite farm memories Daniel says that he has so many great memories from the farm but that one of his favorites is driving with Livestock and Special Projects Manager, Matt Steiman, in his VW rabbit up to a neighbor farmer’s land to pick up hops plants and visit. Kevin (who was the farm’s resident creative builder and pack-house manager at the time), had just built the hops trellis that was near the yurts and the farm needed some hops to get it started. Daniel reflects that it was it sweet to hang one on one with Matt and to visit another farmer and exchange plants and news. He remembers the farmer asking us if they had time for a cider before they left, and enjoyed drinking his home-fermented cider and chatting before driving back through the hills to the farm.