Jess Edmonds

In our spring 2018 issue, Edible Cleveland published a series of portraits of women in farming inspired by classical portraits. The project is the vision of photographer Shane Wynn:
In June of 2017, while I was on a job documenting the women of Spice Acres, I was struck by their vintage-styled sundresses coupled with sturdy leather boots and aprons. The rainy evening ambiance at the farm created a nostalgic backdrop, and the combination elicited flashbacks to scenes in classical paintings, places I have only visited in my mind but have left lasting impressions. The first painting I was reminded of is Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. I’ve always loved the mystery of the scene in this painting and the title of the work. I like the simple presentation of a woman in her element, not smiling or necessarily engaging, but celebrated in her role. The series of portraits paired with the paintings that inspired them is a celebration of the role of women in farming.

Edible Cleveland asked each of the women to elaborate on how their portrait captures who they are, as well as their reflections on the power of women whose work is tied to the land in some way. The following is a discussion with Jess Edmonds, catering director and partner at Spice Companies, whose image was inspired by The Song of the Lark by Jules Adolphe Breton (1884).
How does this image reflect you as a woman?
I’m most happy with my toes in the dirt. One of the highlights of my job is that most of our events are outdoors. I have a great sense of freedom being on the land. It’s empowering that most of the land is worked by women who work their ass off and sweat, and then we get to put them on stage, celebrate them, and show off all their beauty through our outdoor events.
What does having a career that is tied to farming, food, and land mean to you?
I just celebrated my 10th anniversary with Spice in March. It’s been incredible to watch the company grow from an organic upscale farm-to-table sect of Marigold’s corporate catering company, to moving into our own catering space, opening the restaurant, acquiring the farm, and forming Spice Field Kitchen, the nonprofit education arm of Spice. (Chef-owner) Ben (Bebenroth) has always been dedicated to sourcing locally, but now we have our own land where we grow our own food and create exceptional experiences for guests through plated landscapes and other events.
The farm is the heart of it all, and most of our farm hands are these strong, bad-ass women, working the land and having fun yet are super-focused on growing things in a thoughtful way. They are in tune with chefs and the back of the house in terms of crop planning, seed selection and growing things that will work for the catering company and restaurant’s needs.
What is one of your most memorable experiences at the farm?
Ben and Andrea Heim, our farm manager, are so focused on salvaging every last thing so nothing dies on the vine. Last September, we had a Flower Field takeover, where a few of us harvested the entire flower field, and hauled the entire field back to the restaurant. We created this beautiful floral space, and used the experience as an opportunity to educate and share them with our guests. It inspires me and helps me remember what kind of people I work with. They are so careful about not being wasteful, and are so connected to the origin of ingredients and creating awesome experiences as a result. My work fulfills me.
The other women featured in this series are Missy Chambless, Ellen Dietrich, and Hannah Lane Dietrich.