Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat

Young urbanites, learning that dirt can also be soil, are using their overalls as originally intended.

GOING ORGANIC Miriam Latzer and Danny Percich, a farmhand, at Hearty Roots farm.
THEIR Carhartts are no longer ironic. Now they have real dirt on them.Until three years ago, Benjamin Shute was living in Williamsburg, where he kept Brooklyn Lager in his refrigerator and played darts in a league.

Raised on the Upper East Side by a father who is a foundation executive and a mother who writes about criminal justice, Mr. Shute graduated from Amherst and worked for an antihunger charity. But something nagged at him. To learn about food production, he had volunteered at a farm in Massachusetts. He liked the dirt, the work and the coaxing of land long fallow into producing eggplant and garlic.

He tried growing strawberries on his roof in Brooklyn, but it didn’t scratch his growing itch.

And so last week, Mr. Shute could be found here, elbow-deep in wet compost two hours north of New York City, filling greenhouse trays for onion seeds. Along with a partner, Miriam Latzer, he runs Hearty Roots, a 25-acre organic farm.

“I never thought I wanted to farm,” Mr. Shute said. “But it feels like an honest living.”

His partner, Ms. Latzer (the two are not a couple) is 33 and a former urban planner. Her parents, a professor and a librarian, “think its crazy that I’m a farmer,” she said. “They wonder what planet I came from.”

This one. Steeped in years of talk around college campuses and in stylish urban enclaves about the evils of factory farms (see the E. coli spinach outbreaks), the perils of relying on petroleum to deliver food over long distances (see global warming) and the beauty of greenmarkets (see the four-times-weekly locavore cornucopia in Union Square), some young urbanites are starting to put their muscles where their pro-environment, antiglobalization mouths are. They are creating small-scale farms near urban areas hungry for quality produce and willing to pay a premium.
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