MOLLY M. PETERSON of GROWING TOMORROW

WORDS: KATE WEINER

IMAGES: MOLLY M. PETERSON

Molly M. Peterson is a sustainable farmer based in Rappahannock County, Virginia. Molly and her husband Mike manage the ethically sound and environmentally conscious Heritage Hollow Farms. And although it's a "7-7, 7 days a week" kind of job, Molly still makes time to nurture her passion as a photographer. Her evocative images capture the many stories that comprise the alternative food movement and have been featured in Essence and Edible D.C. Paging through her Instagram feed, I am always moved by the beauty and thoughtfulness of her photos. Whether she's working with grand vistas or taking snapshots, Molly manages to squeeze a whole lot of compassion into her art.

Molly first discovered photography as a child in rural Illinois. "I've always been interested in documenting what surrounds me and my grandparents and parents were always so supportive," Molly shares. Early subjects were her dogs and horses and flowers and little cousins--and it hasn't changed much since. Molly continues to generate images that bring you deep enough into her world that you can smell the loamy soil underfoot.

After a year at Illinois State University, Molly's then-boyfriend and now-husband Mike decided to go to culinary school in Colorado. The move inspired Molly to similarly follow her creative drive. She went to photo school in Aspen, working as an intern for the photographer Alice Koelle. "When you want to do something, " Molly says, "it's as if you don't have a choice." Even as she changed coasts and assumed management of the farm, Molly's talent continued to help her connect with several forces of nature within the realm of sustainable agriculture.

It's through this spirit of community that the forthcoming "Growing Tomorrow" came into being. In collaboration with celebrated agriculturalist Forrest Pritchard, Molly shot the photographs for this immersive ode to farm-to-table. "Growing Tomorrow" is a "thank-you note" to the diverse farmers, food suppliers, home cooks, and chefs that are contributing to a decentralized system of agriculture that values local knowledge and environmental accountability. "No matter who we met, whether they were first generation or multi-generation, we all spoke the same language. We all had the same frustrations and triumphs. Every single time Forrest and I left a farm," Molly laughs, "we would say 'oh I love them!'"

Molly and Forrest's cross-country journey was proof that neither one was alone in their experiences. "There is this beautiful web [now] across the country," Molly says of the community that stemmed out of "Growing Tomorrow." And if Molly's inspiring approach to sustainable agriculture and and lush photographs are any indication, it is a community that is sure to keep growing.