Born and raised in southwestern Florida, I'm very much a creature of the sun. I grew up on the edge of my town where the pines and palmettos were never far from the water. With my brother and neighbors, we lived much of our lives outside.
Family and a small circle of friends were always at the center of my life growing up and not much has changed to this day. For me, family comes first. I'm a husband and a proud father of a little girl. Our two rescue dogs are dear family members as well.
Despite my enthusiasm for the world, I'm very much an introvert. It has taken me years to become comfortable with talking about what I do with a modicum of self-regard.
The place in which your grew up will always be with you, no matter where you go. Florida is the polar opposite of Finland, although there are the similarities of being relatively flat, swampy, and surrounded by the sea!
Florida is a truly wild place. The biodiversity, the climate, the people and their chocies are all mind boggling diverse. Spending so much time outdoors in a place with a 90-day monsoon season each summer has left a lasting impression on me both consciously and subconsciously.
My first ecological memories revolve around water. I learned about our place in the food chain (below alligators), our fragility (few things beat a hurricane to wake people up out of their daily lives), as well as our ability to inadvertently break things.
One day my brother and I woke up to an incredibly noxious smell. We threw open the blinds and looked to the pond that was the center of our neighborhood: thousands of fish of all shapes and sizes, species that we had never even seen before, were all gleaming in the morning sun. Fertilizer had runoff with a thunderstorm and caused eutrophication.
The place I had planted my first seeds (cattails to create better habitat for fish) and spent many of my days beside was utterly decimated by a desire to keep the lawns unnaturally green.
On Thanksgiving Day of 1997, my family and I moved. We headed north along the Interstate Highway, driving over 1200 kilometers in one day. Along the way, I saw more of the world than ever before. I saw hills. I saw a landscape that looked increasingly bare as we drove: trees that were in various stages of shedding their leaves for winter.
Soon after, I experienced freezing temperatures for the first time and saw my first snow. We didn't own jeans, let alone a jacket. It was very strange. I never got over leaving Florida and was fortunate enough to be able to return there a week after high school in order to attend the University of South Florida. I studied art, education, and history to find out what I would like to do. I chose history, but became preoccupied by climate change and the reality I was waking up to.
I discovered the power of gardening and permaculture to apply one's energy in a positive direction. I learned that there were people making the world an objectively better place. I traveled Western Europe for a summer in 2008 and met my future wife through a curious set of coincidences.
Upon returning to North Carolina before moving to Finland, I implemented my first permaculture design. That experience allowed me to meet some incredible people and interact with folks of very different persuasions than me. But we connected over a love for this earth and found we could use that as another basis for living and growing together.
These were the words of the integration office when I told them my ambition to start a small farm in Finland way back in 2012.
Indeed, it sounds crazy on the surface. And maybe it was crazy. But here we are nearly a decade later and that dream is a reality.
It may not be what I had had in mind, but it surely is something special. What I now call "the Field Studio at Lillklobb" is one of the first farms in Finland to be designed from the ground up with agroecological principles. It produces way more food than I ever thought possible, in ways I was told wouldn't work here.
Thus the ever increasing abundance and stories from farmers around the world inspires me to share my story so that hopefully you can also begin to find a way to make this life more than the sum of its parts.