Jada Fife

Jada Fife
ET Ourn

Herb seed starters and tomato plants grown from the seeds of store-bought tomatoes currently take up space in Jada Fife `24’s apartment. Meanwhile, a summer garden on her farm, significantly damaged by tornadoes two weeks ago, holds onions, carrots, cabbage, kale, radishes, cauliflower, broccoli and winter squashes. 

Fife was born and raised in Washington, D.C., but her grandparents stayed on the family farm in Afton, Iowa. She loved her time spent there as a kid and during COVID and decided to go to Grinnell “to be in a more rural space.” 

Through her almost four years at Grinnell College, she found inspiration in peers, community in extracurricular activities and passion in returning to her interest in farming and sustainable agriculture, solidified by experiences afforded by opportunities available at Grinnell. 

Despite her background, this wasn’t something originally in the cards for her. “One thing that Grinnell really forced me to do … the people inspired me to work hard at whatever I’m passionate about, even if what I’m passionate about is not something that was the set path,” said Fife. 

Coming out of a first year online at Grinnell, Fife began to embrace the atypical in her college experience, moving off campus quickly. “I enjoyed having my own space, the ability to cook for myself and find a little bit of quiet at the end of the day,” said Fife. 

In her second year, Fife joined the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) club.Over the years, she achieved a blue belt and now serves as club president. “I’m very biased, but I think it is one of the coolest things that is here at Grinnell,” she said. 

Fife says this extra-curricular side of Grinnell has been the best part of her experience here, connecting her more closely to the College. She also joined leadership for Grinnell Advocates in her third year, which has included running the 24-hour Crisis Intervention Services hotline as well as engaging in education and Title IX work.  “Working with students, working with the administration, trying to better the place, is the best way to get to know a place,” she said. 

Working with students, working with the administration, trying to better the place, is the best way to get to know a place.

— Jada Fife`24

Fife said that an externship opportunity living with an organic vegetable farmer during spring break of her second year “planted the seed” of her solidified passion for sustainable architecture. “I’m trying to not bring in all the stupid plant allegories,” she said. Nonetheless, this experience showed her that “you can work on an organic farm and do your own thing, and live in a way that you find not only financially sustainable but also something that aligns with your own values.” 

In her third year, Fife engaged in a seven-week study abroad program on a rural dairy farm in Costa Rica with plenty of bugs and bats, no hot water and long hours of working in sweltering heat. Despite the difficulty of this experience, it was “the final thing I needed to do to prove to myself that this is what I wanted to do with my life,” Fife said. “I like being around animals, around greenery, working outside, even in pretty terrible conditions.” 

Encouraged by these opportunities, Fife began to seek out support for agriculture at Grinnell, including getting to know Tommy Hexter `21 and the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI). “Through these four years, I’ve slowly built up the self-confidence to get there, and even though Grinnell’s Ag [agriculture] contacts are pretty small, it’s such a tight group of people,” she said. 

After being told at a PFI conference that within the field of agriculture, “in 10 to 15 years you can stop having your in-town job and earn an income solely off of your farm,” she said of her after-college plans, “I want to be home because if this is going to take forever, I want to start now.” 

She has already begun her job as the administrative farm coordinator for Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) which works to get conservation easements for landowners. She hopes to stick with the job beyond graduation and, one day, start her own business where her major in economics will come in handy. 

Despite a “rough experience” in college, without Grinnell, Fife says, “I would have never gotten the job that I got.” Nevertheless, she looks forward to beginning her life on the farm after college, experimenting with “dirt-cheap” methods and seeing what grows well. She said, “

We really have our entire lives in front of us.

— Jada Fife `24

… All my breaks I’m working on the farm. Now knowing that I don’t have to take these big pauses anymore and keep on slowly chipping away at it is really exciting.” 

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