April 2024 Alum of the Month: Christian Ebersol ’07
Hotchkiss Alum of the Month April 2024 Christian Ebersol

Yesterday was Eco Day at The Hotchkiss School, where we celebrated our commitment to environmental stewardship. We share the following Alum of the Month profile in celebration of Eco Day and Earth Day.

After a decade in high-stakes finance and technology sectors in New York and San Francisco, Christian Ebersol ’07 discovered a growing movement of farmers who are using regenerative agriculture practices to restore their land. He shifted his focus toward a cause that can profoundly impact the climate crisis and is now the co-founder and CEO of 99 Counties, a company on a mission to reshape the country’s relationship with food and how it is produced. Nestled in the heart of Iowa, his venture is championing regenerative agriculture—a solution that he says is “aimed at restoring the Earth's health alongside human wellbeing.”

What is regenerative agriculture? Ebersol describes it as a whole-systems (or “holistic”) farming approach that seeks to improve the quality of soil and ecosystem health sustainably. “While much of American farmland requires synthetic chemicals and fertilizers to squeeze out bushel after bushel of corn and soybeans each year, a regenerative agriculture system can regenerate the land by raising livestock and crops in a way that mimics nature,” he said.

99 Counties collaborates with small family farms in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin that practice regenerative agriculture. These farmers are not only seeing an increase in soil carbon sequestration, water infiltration, and a return of birds and bees to their land but also are creating profitable rural jobs while reinvigorating their communities. Ebersol’s company sources regeneratively raised beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb from these farmers and then distributes it across the lower 48 states. 

Raised among the forests of Cornwall, CT, Ebersol’s passion and appreciation for the environment were nurtured by his surroundings and further deepened during his time at Hotchkiss. After graduating college, he wanted to see the world and felt he needed to take more traditional jobs in finance and technology in big cities to make an impact. “Being surrounded by nature is in my blood, and I felt a yearning to return to that connection to nature that was fostered by my time in the Northwest Corner and a desire to serve the common good, which I credit my family and Hotchkiss for so subtly imbuing in me,” Ebersol said.

After learning about Hotchkiss from his cousins, Charlie Ebersol ’01 and Willie Ebersol ’04, Christian visited campus to watch Charlie play basketball. “I was in sixth grade and obsessed with sports. Hotchkiss seemed big, imposing, and totally cool, but beyond the athletics, it was the academics that drew me in. Combined with my familial ties and desire to be challenged, going to Hotchkiss seemed like a no-brainer.”

His experiences with Hotchkiss's “exceptional” faculty—including memorable history classes with Tom Trethaway ’75, P’06,’09, and Tom Flemma, and the support of faculty like Jim Fornshell and Christy Cooper P’08,’11—played a crucial role in his academic and personal development. “I'll always remember Nate Seidenberg's dramatic halftime speech during a basketball game against Taft where he compared our plight to that of the Greeks at the battle of Thermopylae. And I credit my advisor, Mark Dittmer, for challenging me to do better. Halfway through my first semester my grades came out and he challenged me to change my Bs to As. It lit a fire under me, and I eventually graduated cum laude.”

Seeking an environment similar to the Northwest Corner, Ebersol decided on Maine's Bowdoin College. After graduation, he worked at Deutsche Bank in New York, rooming with his close friend Bart Marchant ’07. However, Ebersol still desired to escape the "concrete jungle" and find a more entrepreneurial path in the city of his dreams: San Francisco. Marchant connected Ebersol to Alex Tonelli ’02. “Alex was in San Francisco, so I moved there and got a job at a venture capital firm. Over 10 incredible years in the Bay area, I met my future wife and found the courage to start my own company, 99 Counties. Alex was one of the first investors!”

As Ebersol searched for more meaning in his work, he realized that what brought him so much joy—nature—was at risk, whether from drought or wildfires. “And thus, a desire to work on the climate crisis emerged," he said. His search led him on a cross-country road trip in a pick-up truck and a chance encounter with an Iowan farmer named Nick Wallace. Wallace was successful as a single farmer with an organic, grass-fed beef program in one county, but as a cancer survivor who saw a link between his illness and agriculture chemicals, he yearned to see his vision for agriculture adopted statewide. The two joined forces, raised seed capital, and began working with Iowan farmers who practice regenerative agriculture. The company was aptly named for Iowa's 99 counties, and it is on a mission to see regenerative farms emerge in each one of those counties.

“Our dream is to restore Iowa to the oak-filled savannah it once was. By buying regenerative meat, you are actually helping to build topsoil and sequester carbon in that soil,” Ebersol said. “We are building a highly diversified and hyper-local supply chain so our customers are not at the whim of what happens elsewhere.”

Of Hotchkiss, he said, “I am so proud to be an alumnus of a school that emphasizes environmental stewardship, which includes regenerative agriculture. It’s incredibly affirming to see that my alma mater and I cherish the same principles. With ongoing support from our alumni, Hotchkiss can sustain its legacy of fostering the common good.”

Ebersol welcomes Hotchkiss alumni interested in the regenerative agriculture movement to contact him via email.

Hotchkiss Social

Hotchkiss Facebook
    Hotchkiss Instagram
      Hotchkiss Twitter 
        Hotchkiss Instagram