From the Farmer's Tractor
February 26, 2012
How did you get into farming?
I always thought I would have a horse farm – and not a produce and chicken farm – until I started working in the kitchens of small fine dining restaurants back in the late 1980's. These restaurants bought from local farms, and the experience of working in these establishments turned me into a foodie and got me going to farmers markets. I had always wanted to have a farm of my own since the days of my horse farm and racetrack experiences, so when the foodie in me combined with the horse woman, a produce farm was formed.
In 1993, my now husband and I moved to a farm house with a lot of land and started a garden which had way too much food for us, so we decided to try and sell it at a local farmers market. The following year we started a "market" garden that was 25' x 75' and set up shop at the Richmond, Indiana farmers market. The Richmond market was a big market back then with over 50 vendors and 2,000 people coming through on any given Saturday. We started out very part time as we both had other jobs, but after four years of part time market farming we went full time. That’s when we started farming more than two acres and became certified organic.
How have your farming practices changed over the last 10 years?
Not much, we are no longer certified organic (we voluntarily dropped our organic certification in 2002 when the USDA started encouraging farms to get big or get out) but still grow our crops as if we were. Instead of going through the hoops of organic certification done by a third party inspector, we invite the public out to our farm to see how we do what we do and ask questions. This is how you can learn more about the food you eat and how to eat wholesome, local nutritious food.
How will farming evolve in the next five years?
We hope to have a 150 member CSA. CSA’s are a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. We don't have a main crop as we grow between two and 10 beds each of a lot of different crops, so our CSA shares always have a great variety. Our spring shares could include radish, spinach, lettuce, spring mix, leeks, chives, scallions, asparagus (green and purple), arugula, broccoli, cabbage, kale, chard and more. We also hope to have several greenhouses, along with the hoop houses we have been using for the past 15 years. Hoop houses are similar to greenhouses but with plastic roofs wrapped over flexible piping.
What is your greatest challenge as a farmer?
Our greatest challenge is dealing with climate change. You just don't know what the weather will bring and how it will affect your crops, but you go on through the fog anyway and hope it all works out. We had a great fall crop wise, and it looks like we will have a very decent spring, thanks to having enough water in the ground this season. Very, very different from last year when we had a dry summer that went into a dry fall and things were not great.
How does a farmer know what a retailer will want a year from now?
This farmer guesses and is often a trend-setter. The Food Network helps a great deal too, inspiring consumers to seek out new foods.
What steps are you taking toward conservation on the farm?
We farm using organic/sustainable methods. We are committed to growing our food sustainably and locally because food grown this way is healthier for both us and the planet. Our motto is: We sell the best and compost the rest.
Do you sell any of your products locally, and if so, what is the process?
We have always sold locally via farmers markets, our farm store, our farm Share Initiative, sales to locally owned health food stores and occasionally to restaurants.
What kinds of reactions do you get from consumers when they meet you in person?
We have always had personal relationships with our customers as we have always sold direct to them. They seem to like us and our food.