Sven MacAller is a civil engineer who just started farming near Chapel Hill in Orange County, N.C. The son of farmers, Sven decided that he wanted to test his mettle farming grain after returning home from a graduate program in Copenhagen, Denmark. Although he has yet to harvest his first crop, Sven is excited at the prospect of Epiphany turning his grain into beer.

This post is part of the “Know Your Farmer” series, which profiles farmers who collaborate with Epiphany Craft Malt. Check out our other posts to learn more about the people who grow the foundation of fermentation.

When did you know you wanted to be a farmer?

That’s a good question. I’m actually an engineer as well — I work with wastewater systems. That’s what I went to school for. And I like that job, but I spend a lot of time on the computer in the office. And I guess that was not totally fulfilling for me.

I never really thought that I would be a farmer. But over time, I started thinking about other things that I could be doing other than just my engineering job. I grew up in northern Orange County and my family has a vegetable farm, and they sell things at the Durham Farmers Market and to a lot of restaurants. As a kid, I also worked on other people’s farms.

Seeing my parents on their farm and my experiences as a kid, those things just started to be appealing to me again. I started thinking that around the time I was finishing grad school, so I was in my late 20s. It’s kind of what my parents ended up doing as well — they had careers and then they went back to farming. So I guess it runs in the family.

How did you get connected with Epiphany?

I guess one of the reasons I was interested in trying to grow some grain was because it was different than what my parents were doing. And so I wanted to try something a little different, learn something new.

My wife and I moved here from Portland, O.R. and I enjoyed the craft brewery scene there. And I’m a home brewer. So it just sounded interesting to me to try to supply that market. I heard about Epiphany from my dad. So I reached out to Sebastian and started talking to him. And he said that he would be interested in whatever I could produce.

What do you grow at LaMac Farm?

I planted rye and spelt and oats. And I also have a pretty small test plot of spring barley.

What does a normal day on the farm look like for you?

I usually spend a good part of the day at my engineering job. I usually work from 7 or 8 o’clock until maybe 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I work from home, which is nice, so I’m there if there’s something I need to do on the farm.

I try to spend the afternoons working on farm things. We just moved here last July, so this is all pretty new. So I’m still building infrastructure and figuring out systems to do things. I haven’t even harvested my first crop yet.

This is my very first season growing any kind of grains. I’ve tried to educate myself as best I can. So I’ve spent a good amount of time reading and doing research and talking to people. But there’s really no substitute for actually just trying it.

How would your friends describe you?

People think that I’m interesting because of all of the different interests that I have and have had. I’ve tried a lot of different things.

I guess I’m willing to try things that are probably a little bit different than what most people spend their time doing. Trying to start a farm is a pretty serious commitment in terms of time and resources. And you have to be willing to take a little bit of a risk.

But I’m also pretty confident in my ability to problem solve and fix things. I mean, engineering is really just problem solving. And ultimately, that is also what farming is. Unlike my jobs where I’m always working on the same thing, on a farm there’s so many different things to work on. And a lot of my friends call me and ask me for advice on how to fix things. So I guess they think that I’m knowledgeable mechanically!

What’s your favorite beer?

I spent a lot of time in Copenhagen in Denmark. That’s where I went to grad school. So I do enjoy a really good Pilsner. But I’m also a big IPA fan. In terms of a specific beer, I really don’t think I have one! I’m really not too picky.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The interesting thing for me at this point is that I haven’t actually finished growing anything. And I haven’t really had any transactions with Sebastian, I’ve just talked to him about it.

It’s fun talking to him. He’s a cool guy. Jordan too — Jordan’s been very helpful. When I first got here and was talking to Sebastian and Jordan, she spent a good amount of time helping me figure out how I should approach this. So I’m appreciative of their help and input. It’s been really good, regardless of whether or not I meet their quality standards with this first harvest.

It would be great to have a beer made with something I grew. And if it doesn’t happen this year, I will certainly try again!