Women Dominating in Agriculture: Meet Grow Hope Farms Mother-Daughter Duo
For most families, going into business together with your own parent or child may seem like a disaster, but for this mom and daughter duo, Aundria and Makenna Kirchhoff of Grow Hope Farms, that’s never been the case. Grow Hope Farms is an urban farm with a mission to help others learn how to feed the world through nutritional produce, as well as educate them on the importance of fresh food and the agriculture industry as a whole.
Since the beginning, Aundria and Makenna have shared a mutual respect and understanding for one another’s strengths and weaknesses, ultimately making them better business partners. Aundria’s agricultural heritage runs strong. Growing up on a farm, agriculture has always been a major part of her life. She’s since passed that passion down to Makenna, who’s currently studying agriculture at University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
Learn more below about how they take on being female - and family - farmers:
Q. What is it like working together and being a mother-daughter business duo?
Makenna: I think that the dynamic has changed so rapidly between us that keeping up with that is really difficult. I was in high school and would help with little stuff, and then I got to college and took on more responsibilities and then the pandemic happened. Then people started ordering seedlings and the focus shifted. We are now getting the opportunity to dive into our roles and what that looks like, and how we can use that on our farm. We have a lot of strengths that will benefit us in this. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Aundria: Working together has obviously presented its own set of challenges. Not only mother-daughter, but high school student/college student trying to get into things. Makenna has really developed herself as a person. There are a lot of changes beyond just the pandemic and our business plan. Digging into how we are alike and how we are different has allowed us to grow closer and accept each other for our strengths and weaknesses.
Q. We are starting to see more women claim space within the industry and run their own farms. What advice would you give to women in the industry trying to break through? Is it hard to be a woman in agriculture?
Makenna: I have so many friends who are women within this industry, and it has been awesome to see us step into the role. We were always there, but just taking ownership has been great to see. My advice would be to always appreciate what your strengths are and lean into those, because women are very different from men. Men do great in this industry, but so do women. I think we work really well together. Sometimes you can do a lot of comparison within this industry, but everyone does it differently and has different strengths.
Q. Makenna, when did you first realize that you were interested in studying agriculture at University of Nebraska at Lincoln?
Makenna: My mom's whole life has been agriculture, so my whole life has been agriculture. I didn’t really know how much I loved it until I got to college. Getting to college, I finally got to lay my eyes on the people who are big proponents of traditional agriculture, so a lot of my classmates are farmer’s kids who have worked on ranches, and that is their whole life. I got to see that firsthand in a way that I haven’t before. It was cool to see that and get a greater appreciation for what other people did.
Right now I’m studying integrated sciences, which allows me to create my own program. So nutrition, horticulture, and entrepreneurship are my three core areas. I love using college as a tool to help me learn about everything that I want to.
Q. On that note, we’re starting to see the next generation take more of an interest in farming. What advice would you give to those about what it takes to run your own farm and operate within the space?
Makenna: Stay strong, keep working, and keep your head down. Keep doing what you want to do, and if it isn’t for you, that’s OK - just understand that this is hard work. Sometimes I think that Tower Farms look easy, and the technology is easy, but you are still dealing with living things. And dealing with living things is hard.
Aundria: At the end of the day, you’re still dealing with all of the parts of the traditional business: production or manufacturing. We’ve got to understand the growing process, and there’s also packaging and delivery. There are a lot of pieces and parts. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. But being able to step out of your comfort zone is really rewarding.
Q. If you were talking to someone who has no gardening experience but is interested in growing their own fresh food, what would you want them to know about Tower Garden?
Aundria: Growing does not have to be complicated. That’s it. Tower Gardens really level the playing field for someone who knows how to garden and someone who doesn’t. It’s really simple, even if you’re in an urban area with zero exposure to the outdoors. We can help people grow food as simple as someone with years of gardening experience.
Makenna: If I were talking to someone with no experience, I would encourage them to dive into their curiosity. You can’t go wrong. I think people can be too gentle with plants, and it’s OK to get dirty and learn for yourself.
Q. What made Grow Hope Farms decide to start growing with Tower Garden vs another gardening product?
Aundira: I know the integrity with which the company does business. For me, that was an easy answer. I also taught collegiate level horticulture for several years and was really impressed looking at the Tower Garden technology, with the quality of their mineral nutrition, as well as their attention to detail to help everyone be an exceptional gardener. They made it really simple.
Q. What is the mission of your farm and how has it impacted the surrounding community?
Makenna: Our mission is really to bring people together through the food that we grow: whether that looks like families nourishing their bodies through our food, or getting to see young entrepreneurs brainstorm together and feed them through the food we grow.
Q. With your roots in agriculture, what was the most compelling aspect to you about getting into Tower Farms?
Aundria: Living in the heart of an agricultural county, we see firsthand how much the farmers love their land and livestock. It’s important to me to keep our agriculture heritage strong and retain those quality young people to carry on the traditions of agriculture. Tower Garden technology allows us to expand agriculture, really develop those rural areas, and keep our economic dollars very local. Tower Garden technology allows us to keep quality people closer to family.
Q. Do you sell to restaurants or to people in the community? What does that process look like?
Makenna: Mainly the people in the community. We do have a restaurant that we work with. Most of our produce is going to go to the farmers market so that we can form those relationships.
Aundria: When we started, it was more about restaurants, larger amounts to fewer people. Now the people that we know and love really want our produce, and so we’ve shifted our business model a bit in that direction.
We want to thank Aundria and Makenna Kirchhoff for sharing their story and advice for others within the industry with us! Keep up with Grow Hope Farms on social media by following their Instagram and Facebook pages.
Have a story you’d like to share? Reach out to us via our official Facebook page. Happy growing!
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