Co-founder Stories

Written by Michael McMahon and Daniel Nowell

Daniel Nowell Story

I have always enjoyed interesting people and always look for every person’s strength and potential. I am a connector of people because I want every person to reach their potential. It seems like I can see how one person can help another and how other people can be profitable once they meet people who can help them. As a child I grew up in Southern California but when I was 10 my parents moved us to Iraq. We went in our camper on a ship, and I experienced quite a culture shock when I lived there. After four years we moved back to California for high school, and I then moved to Arizona to attend Arizona State University. I have always been fascinated and curious about geology and geography. Outdoor spaces and terroir are my passion. I also realize that I work better as an entrepreneur than an employee. After college I started a commercial blind business that I ran with my wife. It was very successful but not fulfilling or interesting to me. I then got into brokering large land parcels all over the southwest. These land parcels were suited mostly for farmers and ranchers and miners all of whom fascinated me. This was also a very successful business and I had to commute thousands of miles to see property and do due diligence and research and to meet buyers and sellers (many of them farmers). I received an education in land use.

When the market crashed in 2008, I found myself in the game of musical chairs without a chair. Although I thought I was conservative when prices dipped, I became over leveraged. I was disillusioned with real estate and wanted to do something more meaningful. In my conversations with farmers and in my spare time I read about soils, compost, and hemp I decided this is where my passion was. I have been focused on this ever since. I started a compost company and learned the ropes. I met with local farmers and hemp seed producers in Europe. Through this process I learned that sustainable farming is organic and requires both compost and farms need cover crops- hence hemp as a rotation crop. I then met Mike McMahon. Although at times we seem to be an unlikely pair his discipline and his business acumen and financial strength was exactly what I needed. We started Soil Seed and Water LLC.

Michael McMahon Story

As a young man I grew up in Buffalo New York. At age 12 I had 17 yards in my neighborhood that I maintained. I was an outdoor kid and hard work suited me well and this was my first landscape company- little did I know I would be doing this for the rest of my life. I had a large family and if I wanted anything I learned quickly I would need my own money to buy it.

I attended the University of New York at Buffalo because it was economically feasible. I graduated without debt but had to work full time throughout to pay for school and room and board. My degree was in the Engineering school an ultimately a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design which is all about wholistic problem solving and sustainability before sustainability became everyone’s buzz word. I even remember reading about Burlongs Green Revolution in Agriculture and a lot about unintended consequence of our actions. This was my first environmental awareness and I still remember the slogan at the time- “Think Global and Act Local” which is a modo I still believe in today.

Buffalo was in the rust belt and unemployment was high as were interest rates during the recession of the 70’s and early 80’s. During college I went coast to coast one summer hitchhiking and another summer on a bicycle. I worked along the way in construction and fast food. When I graduated after four years, I moved immediately to the place I thought had the most growth and took a greyhound bus to get to Phoenix, Arizona. I hadn’t been to Phoenix before and knew no one. What money I had didn’t last long and I didn’t have a car. I worked in restaurants and bars and landscaping and enter the master’s program at Arizona State University for a degree from the school of architecture with a master’s degree in Environmental planning. Dan and I coincidently were in the land use and development game.

After graduating I had a short stint as a planner at an international planning company. Although it was very intellectually stimulating, I missed being outdoors and thought I could make more money if I started my own landscape company. I started Agave Environmental Contracting in 1990 and still own and manage it to this day. I had many spinoff companies over the years including a 17-acre community garden and then a non-profit Urban Farming Education. These two companies require the skill sets I have honed over four decades. This is also where I developed a true sense of social and environmental awareness and realized I was in a unique position to become an agent of change. My children were raised I was ready for a challenge, and I had business and agriculture skill sets.

Both Dan and I believe we can help reverse global warming reduce hunger and produce more nutritious food through composting and vermicompost and the use of a lower water using multipurpose cover crop- hemp. We started Soil Seed and Water LLC on a large scale and expect it to grow substantially.