California Farm Academy

8th Class of the Beginning Farmer Training Program

Graduation Speeches:


Bryce Wilson

Bryce is an army veteran whose values are the cornerstone of everything he does: he has unwavering integrity, and perseveres in light of challenges. He is in our Registered Apprenticeship Program and is working full-time at Soil Born Farm. He has found a perfect fit...his experience with heavy machinery makes him a valuable asset on any farm. In the near future, he’s planning to get his diesel mechanics certificate at American River College, learn more about orchards, and work with Soil Born Farm to restart their animal husbandry program. He wrote that, “as an ex-soldier I found that I need to feel like I’m doing something important for the world, farming gives me that feeling.” Good luck as you pursue your future in farming!


Karen Vikstrom

Karen is a cancer genetic counselor and came to class with land in Mt. Shasta, a plan to develop a farm site, and a passion for this next adventure in life! In the process of working through her business plan, she landed on a unique main crop, lingonberry. Not only does she love this fruit, but it grows in the Scandanavian climate, and will (hopefully!) grow well in the Mt. Shasta region. With her Mt. Shasta property, aptly named, Nordica Farm, she wants to prioritize the natural ecosystems and plans to build a farm & a home that incorporates as much biodiversity as possible. So, if you head to the Mt. Shasta region in the coming years, keep your eyes open for the best berry ever...lingonberry. Congratulations on building your dream property!


David Gomes

David was a math teacher, literally teaching all over the world. He is also an avid kombucha maker. Combine these two qualities, and it’s no surprise that he would come to class sharing his delicious homemade kombucha, and teaching us everything about the process. After much deliberation about how he wanted to integrate farming into his life in a concrete way, he decided upon, you guessed it...a kombucha and fermented-product business, growing all of his own ingredients. He’s planning to start immediately, and hopes to sell in the Davis area this next year. Keep an eye out for Pierrot’s (“PEE-yo”) Farm, and support his hyper-local kombucha and sauerkraut business. And trust me, his kombucha is seriously delicious. Good luck, David!


Megan Young

Megan is a thoughtful and thorough person, with a family history of farming. She comes from a long line of Swedish farmers, and after they immigrated to the US, they grew sugar beets in Minnesota in the late 1800’s. It’s no surprise that she would catch the farming bug, and transition to a career in agriculture. Impressively, she went to coding school while attending the Training Program and plans to keep one foot in tech, while the other foot in farming, in order to fund the capital needed to get the farm going. Incorporating her skills in baking & jam making, her plans are to start a small-scale direct-to-market farm, that fills the community and herself with love and good food. Congratulations on a great year!


Aleksa Davila

Aleksa is a bright spirit and an enthusiastic learner. She is a Florida native, and came to CA to learn to farm! With her experience in the hospitality industry, she knows the restaurant side of food, and has plans to transition to the farming side. She is a traveler, and a motivated individual who doesn’t let anything stop her. In the coming years, she plans to expand her experience by traveling and working on farms, while exploring a few different regions to determine where she wants to put down roots. Aleksa, wishing you all best while you continue on this farm-life adventure. We know you won’t stop until you find the perfect place to grow your farm. Good luck!


Dain Holland

A motivated, reliable and kind person, Dain comes to the Training Program from the culinary industry. He was the Sous Chef for UC Davis Dining and is now the head chef at a new restaurant called Fourk in Sacramento and is no stranger to creating and building top-notch meals for appreciative people. He plans to take his skills in the kitchen...and his newfound farming his new business providing simple and delicious meals to families in their homes. He’s taking home delivery meal-kits to the next level by providing all local ingredients, less packaging, and 1x1 chef support. His long-term goal is to grow the food, as well. Dain, you hit the nail on the head with this idea, and we wish you all the best as you make it happen!


Susan Gagliardi

It was a pleasure to have Susie in class! She is a biologist and researcher at UC Davis, and we were lucky to learn from her. For example, we had an exciting day when she shared with us a rare sighting in our field--a native queen bumble bee looking for a new home...a very rare occurrence, and a testament to the health of our field. Susie is incredibly hard-working, and very thoughtful about her future farming plans. She has decided upon two crops: turmeric & ginger. She’s done the research...and these crops not only CAN grow here, but there is a market for it. So, if you find turmeric and ginger from CA in the coming years, it’s possible it will be grown by Susie. Best of luck, Susie!!


Bobby Ragan

Bobby is a Stockton native--proud to come from a strong agricultural region. He is a navy veteran, and served as a supervisor of a medical clinic. He is thoughtful, caring, motivated, and intentional in his actions. He is in our Registered Apprenticeship Program and is working full-time at Soil Born Farm. His overall mission is to provide stewardship in an effective manner, using regenerative farming practices. To fulfill this mission, he plans to pursue a career as a pest control advisor. His next steps are to get his license and move into a harvest lead position at Soil Born Farm. With his love of science, and his interest in biodiversity, he will make the perfect Pest Control Advisor and will impact our ag community in such a positive way. Good luck as you make this career a reality!


Ambra Kelly

Ambra has an entrepreneurial spirit and a go-get em' attitude. I don’t think there’s anything she wouldn’t tackle. She is an Intellectual Property Paralegal, and in her spare time started a company called Beeu, producing natural body care products from beeswax, and she attended culinary school at American River College. After a great deal of discernment about how she wants to engage with agriculture, she’s following her family roots by growing trees. But she’s planning to do things a little differently, she plans to grow multi-fruit grafted trees, with the plan to sell them to new development companies. Here’s to a great idea!....and all the best as you begin your nursery. Congratulations!!

Jonathan McDonald

After a career in the Air Force and National Guard as military police, Jonathan has found both passion and healing in agriculture. He began his studies in horticulture at Diablo Valley College, and even became the Horticulture Club President. To say he has a love of the symbiotic relationship between fungi and plants is an understatement. He has a great deal of knowledge in the field, and has fervor for all things fungi. He started Forevermore Fungi before the Training Program classes started and during the last 7 months has been putting the pieces together to build an efficient farm business growing many different kinds of mushroom varieties for the public. Jonathan, you have everything you need to make your business thrive. Good luck!


For more information on the Beginning Farmer Training Program, contact Sri Sethuratnam.

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