Thirty ideas from people under 30: The Environmentalists

They are explorers and activists, artists and educators, farmers and faith leaders – even mayors. And they have trenchant suggestions on how to improve the world.

Chris and Kim Corbin, Luke and Sally Gran: Progressive planters

Dennis Chamberlin
Left to right, Colette Hll Vander Plas, Chris Corbin (on tractor), Matt Parker and Sally Gran, harvesting carrots at Table Top Farm in Nevada, Iowa. This was the first year for Corbin and Gran to farm vegetables. Vander Plas is one of their first employees and Parker is a friend of Gran's who was helping them harvest the carrots for the CSA shares that they were delivering that week.

Corn and soybeans have provided very good livings for Iowa farmers in recent years. But the focus on these two cash crops has meant that people living in the center of the nation's bread-basket are now likely dining on vegetables grown in California or Florida, not from a farm on the outskirts of town.

Now four young entrepreneurs at TableTop Farm have set out to change the way Iowans eat. Working on rented land near the central Iowa town of Nevada, rookie farmers Chris and Kim Corbin and Luke and Sally Gran have quickly established their intent to provide families, as well as wholesale and retail buyers, with locally grown organic produce.

TableTop is part of the growing Community Supported Agriculture movement, which itself is gaining ground from the "locavore" trend – people searching for freshly picked, local fruits and vegetables.

With 86 percent of Iowa devoted to farmland, this would seem a good place to further the eat-local movement. So 24-year-old Sally Gran convinced relatives to rent her and her partners the ground they needed. They sold "shares" to area families that guaranteed delivery of more than a dozen vegetables throughout the summer.

Those subscribers provided TableTop with cash to start their crop. The couples also borrowed money and boosted income with sales at farmers' markets. Sally Gran says she may close a deal to provide carrots to a local food supplier.

"Those carrots are really sweet," she says.

The farm will double its acreage next season, and TableTop plans to hire four full-time workers to help deliver the news – and food – to a growing audience.

– Steve Dinnen, Des Moines, Iowa

Next in the series: The Change Agents

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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