What is the best part about working in the local growing movement? For Maggie Kaiser, that response is very simple: the people. Maggie owns and operates Too Tall Farm & Nursery with her partner Jacob Ingalls and friend Kevin Klopf on their ¼ acre lot in St. Claude, as well as a larger property in Covington, LA. They acquired the lot in St. Claude in 2018, which was previously used by other members of the New Orleans growing community such as Anna Timmerman, an extension agent at the LSU AgCenter, as well as Nicola Krebill, who runs Schmelly’s Dirt Farm, a composting business.
Too Tall Farm got its name for two reasons. Primarily, it is the nickname of Jacob (who is 6’4”). Additionally, it is a daily topic of conversation for them because they sell plant starts, and need to consistently analyze if their starts are growing “too tall” or not. Jacob grew his first plant starts at Laughing Buddha Nursery, a shop in Metairie where they both worked before transitioning to the new location. They have since expanded to grow medicinal herbs like tulsi, skullcap and spilanthes, as well as other crops like turmeric, hibiscus, ginger, and eventually mushrooms.
Alongside her job with Two Tall Farm, Maggie is the Produce Safety Coordinator for the National Young Farmers Coalition, an advocacy and policy organization that identifies and works to dismantle barriers to young farmers’ success in the United States. The Greater New Orleans Growers’ Alliance (GNOGA) is the New Orleans Chapter of this organization. She travels around the region and country, leading produce safety trainings with local, small-scale farmers, and has been able to meet so many amazing people, who are growers like herself. Though Maggie, Jacob, and Kevin all have other jobs in addition to their work with Too Tall, they hope to scale up to a point at which one of them can become a full time team member in the next few years.
Since her start on the growing scene, Maggie has noticed that local farmers have become more aware of local and national policy, and how it affects their work. As part of GNOGA, these farmers advocate for things like land rights, which is the primary issue for local growers in the city. “In certain cases, farmers are not allowed to protect themselves by registering leases, which has legal repercussions and leads to them getting kicked off of land prematurely,” explained Maggie. She suggests creating an urban land trust, or reserving certain land for agricultural use in the city.
Another reason why Maggie loves what she does is the stewardship aspect that comes with growing food and working with the land. “I value the ability to build up the soil and the earth, because we as humans have done so much to deplete it,” said Maggie in an interview. Working, collaborating and becoming friends with people who share these values is a beautiful part of being a farmer in New Orleans (and Louisiana).