Nate Belden, Co-Founder / Chief of Things Great & Small
Raised on a horse farm in Colorado, agriculture has always played an important part in Nate’s life. With one grandfather operating a cattle ranch in Montana and the other farming dairy and corn in Nebraska, it isn’t surprising that Nate developed a deep passion for the land, fantasizing about tractors and livestock the way his friends dreamed of fast cars and high tech gadgets.
After graduating University of Colorado, Boulder, Nate put his rural dreams on hold in the name of a very urban finance career that led him to New York City and then to San Francisco. But the farming bug never left him. In fact, the further away he got from an agrarian life, the more he missed it.
In 2004, while still toiling away at his city job, Nate spent a holiday weekend with friends in wine country, and decided to steal away to look at an available farm in Sonoma. Despite the fact that the property was both well beyond his budget and his time available to operate a working vineyard, it was love at first sight. The visit fueled an entire year of monthly drives to Sonoma Mountain Road, where he would park in front of the property’s mailbox and fantasize about becoming a wine grower. The visit also initiated an extreme desire to learn more: winemaking and viticulture classes at UC Davis and SRJC became a part of daily life.
On one such pilgrimage to Sonoma in early summer 2005, the “For Sale” sign had been pulled, bringing his fantasy to an abrupt halt. After a few weeks of deep disappointment, Nate called the realtor to see if any similar properties were available, only to learn that the sale had fallen through. This time, he leapt at the opportunity to plant a flag on the site we now call Belden Barns.
These days, when Nate’s not immersed in planning this year’s crops or next year’s harvest and bottling, he is most likely adventuring around the Bay Area with Lauren and their two small children, Olivia and Milo. Active volunteers, Nate and Lauren also focus their efforts on improving the lives of orphans near Arusha, Tanzania. Nate is also a Board Member of Burbank Housing, a Sonoma-based nonprofit dedicated to building quality affordable housing in the North Bay.
Nate Belden can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lauren Belden, Co-Founder / Chief Creative Cultivator
While Nate’s childhood was spent caring for race horses, roping cattle, and planting crops, Lauren grew up in New York City, never getting much closer to farming than a disappointing attempt to “raise” sea monkeys in her kitchen. When she planted her first row of seeds in Sonoma many decades later, she literally screamed with joy the morning she woke to find the starts of edible salad vegetables bursting out of the dark brown dirt.
Lauren is a passionate brand expert, who prior to establishing a freelance branding and innovation career, worked for a number of advertising agencies and brand strategy shops, helping clients like Domino’s, FedEx and Chanel create products and experiences that transform consumers from occasional brand users to passionate brand loyalists. With a deep-rooted addiction to understanding what makes people tick, Lauren takes great pleasure in the art of identifying unmet consumer needs and finding creative, exciting solutions for them. Lauren is thrilled to help Nate turn Belden Barns into a truly unique tasting experience that offers its members the kind of welcoming and engaging community she delights in building from the ground up.
Lauren is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where she majored in English and Creative Writing. She is a published writer, avid traveler, and obsessive collector of seashells and heart-shaped rocks.
When she’s not busy working with Nate to envision the future of Belden Barns or helping her freelance clients, you’ll find Lauren volunteering, enjoying the great outdoors, or entertaining (and being highly entertained by) the two Belden munchkins, Olivia Bird and Milo Field.
Lauren Belden can be contacted at email@example.com.
Justin Harmon, Winemaker
Proof that good fences can create more than good neighbors, our winemaker, Justin Harmon, was our fence-line neighbor on Sonoma Mountain for the first decade of our development.
To this day, Justin cannot pinpoint the moment when the wine-bug bit him. Raised in Chicago in a home where wine was a non-factor, the source for this passion remains a mystery. But after nearly a decade of devout wine consumerism, a desire to know more took hold. Vacations began centering on wine – vineyard tours, tasting room visits and gaining audience with winemakers to pick their brains. In time, Justin’s interest progressed to enology textbooks, trade journals, home winemaking, and the realization that creation, not consumption, was where his true passion lie.
A chance meeting with a California winemaker and an open invitation to “help with harvest” led to Justin’s first opportunity to participate in the commercial process. After a harvest internship in Sonoma, his fate was sealed. The following year, he became a professional winemaker upon founding Argot Wines and assuming its winemaking duties. Currently, Argot produces approximately 2,000 cases each vintage.
Justin is a rising star in Sonoma winemaking and has a combination of impressive skills. A chemical engineer by training, he knows what should and shouldn’t be going on in the fermentation tank. Justin also has a broad tasting context – his passion has led him to taste and understand the benchmark bottlings of North American and International wines flying each of our estate’s varietal flags. Those skills and experiences, matched with a gifted palate, are what really creates a special winemaker. Justin is a talent we are very excited to have on the Belden Barns team.
Justin Harmon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Bowland, Vineyard Manager
Chris Bowland is the type of person you luck into meeting and over time question how you would have been able to manage without. He has a strong and varied background in agriculture, and happens to have expert knowledge in beekeeping, as well. He studied at Cal Poly San Lois Obispo, and graduated with a B.S. in Agribusiness Management. After farming organic vegetables for a number of years in Sonoma County, he began his grape career with Sonoma Grapevines, where he expanded his knowledge of viticulture and grape growing and also completed his AS in Viticulture from the highly respected SRJC.
Dedicated to vineyard management since 2000, Chris and a group of committed employees have grown into one of the premier viticultural groups in Sonoma County. Chris currently manages over 400 acres of ultra-premium wine grapes in both the Russian River and Bennett Valley AVAs, including the highly-regarded estate vineyards of Williams Selyem.
Chris began working with our estate vineyards in 2005, and has helped with every step of development. The quality of fruit achieved by our vineyard is in large part due to Chris and his team’s efforts.
Chris Bowland can be contacted at email@example.com.
Jenny Trotter, Farmer
Jenny, with her husband Vince, run the Farm at Belden Barns, “assisted” by their son, Evan. Together, they coax a dazzling variety of greens, grains, beans and tree fruit from the sandy loam soils at the center of the Belden Barns property.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Jenny never expected to find herself farming. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in Human Biology, she worked for foundations focused on international health, community development and human rights. Jenny’s engagement with food and agricultural began from a non-profit, advocacy perspective. While living in Brooklyn, NY she managed programs for Slow Food USA, working with farmers, chefs and consumers to preserve heirloom varieties and heritage breeds and promote greater diversity in the food supply. In her spare time, she and Vince administered a large neighborhood CSA with an upstate New York farm and spent their weekends cooking, pickling and preserving food.
These experiences led to a desire to explore food production more directly. In early 2010, Jenny and Vince left New York City and spent the next two years apprenticing on small diversified farms in California—first in the Sierra Nevada foothills and then on the Central Coast at Pie Ranch, which launched their dream to start their own farm.
When Jenny and Vince first met Nate and Lauren in late 2010 they were immediately taken with the Belden’s vision, and impressed with the Beldens’ commitment to collaboration – sharing resources to support local, diversified agriculture production and increase the connections between people and the source of their food. The Beldens’ and Trotters’ shared vision blossomed into a strong partnership and joint commitment to steward this beautiful land on Sonoma Mountain.
When Jenny isn’t in the field, you will find her working with her dad’s consulting practice helping small business owners grow and sustain their enterprises, and teaming up with local farmers to support food distributor F.E.E.D. Sonoma transition to a farmer- and worker-owned cooperative.
Jenny Trotter can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vince Trotter, Farmer
As part of a large, extended family that has farmed in northern Idaho for five generations, it shouldn’t be surprising to find Vince working the soil. Besides a few summers spent riding combines with his cousins, though, Vince’s early adult life was not very agricultural. After majoring in Psychology and Communications at Stanford University (where he met his wife Jenny), Vince spent three years teaching English in Japan before returning to the Bay Area, training staff and facilitating work groups at Kaiser Permanente. Eventually, a move to New York launched a new career in custom cabinetry and woodworking.
The time spent in New York getting closer to the sources of their own food led Vince and Jenny to make the leap together to a life in small-scale sustainable agriculture in California. After working and learning at farms in the Sierra foothills and on the Central Coast, Vince brought his background in teaching to his farming work – training interns at Pie Ranch in Pescadero, CA and later leading the student crews at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Shone Farm.
From the moment the Trotters and the Beldens met, it was clear that Vince and Jenny’s desire to establish their own diversified operation with a mix of row crops, orchard, livestock and education/hospitality was a perfect match with the Belden Barns vision. In 2015 Vince and Jenny planted their first crop and have been growing the field and orchard production ever since.
Vince’s commitment to sustainable agriculture runs well beyond the Belden Barns fence line. When Vince isn’t farming with Jenny, he helps farmers and ranchers as Agricultural Ombudsman and Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator for the UC Cooperative Extension office in Marin County. He also leads the board of directors of Sonoma County FarmTrails, an organization that has promoted and preserved Sonoma County’s rich agricultural tradition for more than 40 years.
Vince Trotter can be contacted at email@example.com.
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