Tastemakers 2019: Caitlin Bergman and Dan McLeod, Owners of Copia Farm
Chances are, you’ve seen Copia Farm eggs in your grocery store or on local menus. The Johnstown farm has quickly become a favorite of chefs and consumers in Central Ohio thanks to the outstanding quality of the plant and animal products produced on the farm’s 40 acres.
Why They’re Tastemakers: Caitlin Bergman and Dan McLeod employ agroecological management practices at Copia Farm that are rooted in permaculture philosophy, in which patterns and relationships in nature drive landscape design. Among monoculture Midwest farm fields, the duo dares to farm differently, making the protection of native ecosystems and the promotion of healthy soils, plants and animals core tenets of their business.
Sowing Soil in Ohio: Partners both professionally and personally, Bergman and McLeod’s journey began as the only Americans at a sustainable farming course in Australia. Back in the U.S., McLeod worked in watershed restoration in California while Bergman served as the first-ever permaculture curator at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Together they started a San Francisco Bay Area consulting and education company focused on ecological regeneration. In 2013, Ohio beckoned with the promise of affordable land and a chance to apply to their own operation the sustainability practices the two had honed over the years.
All About Terroir: McLeod calls much of modern American agriculture “anti-environmental,” with animals raised indoors, in confinement. “When you’re trying to create taste, you have to create great soil,” he says. “The better the land that animals are on, the better they’re going to taste.” Bergman adds that Copia Farm gives “animals a clean environment, comfort and care. All of that has a huge impact on the quality of our meat and vegetables.”
Working with Nature: In what Bergman and McLeod call a “closed-loop system,” Copia Farm pigs forage freely on forested land, and chickens are raised on pasture. The animals nourish the property’s soil with their nutrient-rich manure, which is also utilized as fertile compost for the farm’s plant life. The operation has scaled while employing permaculture’s principles of “earth care, people care and fair share,” a philosophy that some consider the realm of hobby farms and backyard gardens. The couple rears 3,000 chickens, 50 or so heritage pigs and a generous supply of seasonal fruits, berries, herbs and vegetables, demonstrating the profitability in farming sustainably.
Local Eats: Copia Farm’s products are sold to numerous restaurants in the region, including Wolf’s Ridge Brewing and La Tavola. Bergman and McLeod say that Kevin Caskey, head chef at Skillet, was one of the first to source from them. “He still buys eggs weekly,” says Bergman, “in addition to anything else we have.” Consumers can find the farm’s eggs at Lucky’s Market in Clintonville, all three Central Ohio Whole Foods Markets, and many of the region’s Giant Eagles and Market Districts. Visitors also can stop at Bergman and McLeod’s on-farm shop 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to purchase products, and this year Copia Farm is launching a farm-to-consumer CSA program with Sunbeam Family Farm, also in Licking County.
Hometown: Los Angeles
Previous gig: Founder of SayPermaculture design group
Recommended reading: “The Third Plate” by Dan Barber
Dream last meal: A dinner sourced from Copia Farm’s fields
Always in her fridge: Homegrown, homemade sauerkraut
Hometown: Mount Vernon
Previous gig: Watershed restoration specialist
Recommended reading: “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan
Dream last meal: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Favorite drink: Pack IPA from Wolf’s Ridge Brewing