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Spring 2004

COVER STORIES: BACK TO THE LAND...STILL

 
   
Dan Horan, A89
Organic farming at a family homestead yields vegetables and pride in hard work done well

Back to Back to the Land...Still

When Dan Horan graduated from Tufts in 1989, he did what seemed natural: he started growing organic vegetables on his great-grandfather’s farm. “I had never planted a seed in my life,” he says. “I always liked being outdoors and I knew I wanted to run my own business.”

Today, his dream is thriving at Waldingfield Farm in Washington, Connecticut. Horan and his two younger brothers raise and sell organic vegetables and ship them to restaurants, health food stores, supermarkets, and farmers’ markets in the Connecticut area. “It’s an incredibly rewarding business—taking something from beginning to end,” says Horan. “It also makes a lot of people feel good.”

Horan has advanced a business career while keeping his hands in the soil. After earning an M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management, he and his wife, Julie Beglin, J89, settled in Manhattan. During the late 1990s, he divided his time between overseeing an upscale grocery business in New York City and farm chores. “My brothers and I shipped thousands of pounds of produce into New York and around Connecticut,” says Horan. Today, he is the CEO of Papaya King, a 70-year-old New York City institution selling hot dogs and tropical fruit drinks, and he and Julie are raising their family in Brooklyn. At the farm, he plays a more behind-the-scenes role, overseeing finances and helping with overall strategy and planning, while his brothers run the day-to-day vegetable business. “I jump on the tractor whenever I can,” he said from his New York offices. “I’ve lost my hand calluses, but the farm is still a strong part of me.”

On the 18-acre Waldingfield Farm, the Horan family raises more than 100 types of vegetables and specializes in heirloom tomatoes, growing more than 75 varieties and harvesting nearly 15,000 plants. For Horan, the best part is that “my whole family has become involved. The farm has become a meeting ground for all of us.” Over the years, many Tufts alumni have visited and worked at the farm, and many make an annual pilgrimage back to the Harvest Party—a celebration of the year’s bounty.

Horan has always held a deep appreciation for the value of organic produce. “I’m not a believer in industrial agriculture that’s chemically dependent and monoculturally driven. I just don’t see it as the right thing for the planet. I think there are certainly instances and areas of the world where organic growing is difficult and the short-term economics are challenging, but as a long-term effort, I think the dependence on chemicals to grow our food needs to be rethought.” For more information, visit waldingfieldfarm.com.