I asked my farmer, M, of M’s Organic Sustainable Farm, to answer some questions regarding her life as an agricultural maven, as well as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the community and its impact. M was gracious enough to let me get my Jim Leher on, despite the week from hell: a freak storm, power outage, and crop damage. She is a total trooper.
The "M" stands for magnificent.
The Unlikely Organic (TUO): How did you get into farming?
: I was a vegan already and interested in healthy, morally correct eating. I interned at an Organic Farm and I remember the day I said to myself, “I wanna do this, I love this simple, peaceful life just creating good food that I love”. I was picking greens and the owners were setting trellises . Honestly, if I would have known how hard it would have been the first 2 years of farming, I WOULD NOT HAVE DONE IT so, Bless my ignorance cuz I’m very happy.
I wanted to do something important and meaningful. It’s not by default, I have a college education plus certifications. I was tired of working for (decent pay yes) big companies and thinking “Nothing I do here matters”.
TUO: What inspires you after a horrible day (bugs, power outages, storm damage, etc)?
M: I go look at something I just did like a weeded half acre. We recently had storm damage and I had to re-train all the tomatoes and I wasn’t happy, to me it was time wasted I could have done 100 other things. But, I started and every so often I’d look behind me to see what I’d done and how good the toms looked and kept going. A lot of times folks will stop by and tell me how great I’m doing and how great everything looks and that picks me up too. I do get mad and I curse, but that lasts not long, cuz it’s not productive. Really, I don’t have time to hold on to disappointment. I just say okay, you got it out now, how can I fix this?
TUO: What is the favorite thing you grow?
M: Vegetables! Ha. I love them all but Greens. I could tell ya how they have antioxidants, support the immune system, have all the vitamins plus omega 3 but they are just great for you. Cooked in something, or raw on top of pizza, pasta, sandwiches, stir fry, in omelets, I make Mac and Soy cheese with chopped greens, Whatever you are cooking, use them. From Georgia Collards to Komatsuna or Chard, they are packed with flavour and goodness.
TUO: What do you want to share with your customers and the public about CSA’s? Why are they important in the world of supermarkets?
M: I’m not sure that people know that CSA’rs really are necessary to farmers like me. Maybe not to the giant operations, but, my CSA’rs are truly supporting organic, sustainable ag. They, literally, are the reason I have seed and shade clothe. You’ll not get rid of supermarkets but, I do encourage people to grow some of their own food. I get flack from other farmers cuz they think I’m encouraging them to NOT buy from us but, when people find out how hard it is to grow on scale they appreciate more. And, it’s so great to go out and pick your dinner. I want that for people.
TUO: Name three super-awesome facts about your self.
1. I don’t like things that are easy, I get bored.
2. I’m non competitive, I’ll help/share with any farmer who asks.
3. I ‘m very good at getting things done: I’m a starter and finisher.
TUO: Where do you see your farm in 5 years? 10?
M: I have the 3 properties currently, I don’t want to expand and get too big so I have to hire people to work here who don’t care about the farm. I know I don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity, although it is becoming, financially, harder to do this. I will tweek what I have. I know I can grow better, more efficiently on what I have. It’s a juggling thing, an organizational thing. Also, I’d like to do more CSA. The market scene no longer supports the farm. Most market management says they want real farmers, then you get there and the food brokers have August veggies in June. So disappointing. Not only because I’m “competing” with them, but it send the wrong message to the consumer.
TUO: What is your client base? Describe your typical customers.
M: My typical customer is educated about the impact their food/$ choices have. They aren’t looking for cheap , they are looking for quality. They realize that in real farming , you cannot have everything, all the time, right now! That has been the American Way for a while now. Now we are seeing GMO foods and the major decline of pollinators, partially due to this old attitude. My typical customer is willing to support what they believe in. Typically, I have more CSA’rs in or from Chicago.
TUO: How has eating locally affected your clients? You?
M: Wow. Okay, I work very, very hard (and I love it), if I didn’t eat this food, I have no idea if I could do this job/joy. As for my customers, I think their commitment to not only eating healthy but supporting something important to them , benefits them physically and emotionally.
Thank you very much M for your insights. I think this really shows how important local eating really is, and how much commercial agriculture affects what we eat and our attitude towards it. It’s time to get real.