Celebrating 10 Years of the Fellows Program: Dayna Burtness

Dayna BurtnessDayna Burtness
Fellow from August 2009 to February 2011, based in Minneapolis

Bon Appétit campus attended: St. Olaf College

Current job: I’m a full time farmer and incubator farm program manager on our regenerative livestock farm, Nettle Valley Farm, in waaay southeastern Minnesota near the tiny town of Spring Grove, MN. My main focus is raising the happiest dang pastured pigs you’ll ever meet, but Nettle Valley Farm is also home to egg laying and meat chickens, ducks, goats, and sheep.

Skill/wisdom you gained from the Fellowship: The opportunity to practice storytelling (aka public speaking). Sharing the behind-the-scenes stories of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Agreement, or the origins of Bon Appétit’s switch to cage free eggs, helped students and café guests understand the real power of institutional change more than any whitepaper ever could. I loved being a part of that connection-building.

Two women in a slaughterhous

Then-General Manager at Colorado College Beth Gentry and me at Ranch Food Direct’s meat processing facility

Memorable experience as a Fellow: Meeting Farm to Fork partner Mike Callicrate of Ranch Foods Direct back in fall 2010 was incredible. He is one of the fiercest farmer-warriors out there when it comes to fighting agribiz bullies in the meat industry, and I tried to channel some of his energy when my neighbors and I had to fight off an incredibly risky 5,000 sow factory farm. (We won!)

Advice for current food-activist students: Spend at least a month (ideally a season!) working full time on a farm. It will shape you in ways you can’t imagine and give you a fuller picture of the struggles America’s family farmers face.

Read more Fellows 10th Anniversary interviews: