What is your background? How long have you worked on the farm?
This is our third season with Rosy Buck Farm! We did a lot of WWOOFing on farms across the US and the world. We met when I was taking time off school and we were the only two WWOOFers on a farm in the San Juan Islands. After I graduated, we decided to do some more WWOOFing to see what worked and what didn’t work on different farms. We planned a year long trip to visit 17 farms across the country in Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, Vermont, and Rhode Island. We were lucky that one of the farms in Tennessee asked us to come back and stay the whole season the following year, which was perfect because we wanted to see a whole season on one farm. The year after that, we traveled around the world and used WWOOFing as a cheap way of travel.
After traveling for awhile, we decided to test the waters and started our own farm in Massachusetts on our friend’s land. At that time, we had a very small CSA and sold to a farmer’s market, all while working on another organic farm! Last year in 2016, we moved back to where I am from here in Missouri. I was pleasantly surprised by the many cool people doing awesome work in rural Missouri for sustainable farms. Currently, we are living and working on a sustainable flower farmer’s land and working 20 hours a week in addition to working on our own farm. It’s definitely hard to save money while farming and we are not quite in the position to buy our own land yet.
What do you wish people knew about the food system in St. Louis?
People don’t realize the difference that shopping at farmers’ markets can make. Deciding to go to the farmer’s market instead of a supermarket can really make or break local farmers. Local farmers rely on those customers showing up and being regulars. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without customers. Also, people don’t realize how many local farms there are, and how much variety is available at farmer’s markets. However, be critical! If you see bananas at a market, it’s probably not local. If having sustainable food is important to you, you need to make sure you know where your food is coming from. Ask questions. Don’t assume that because it is called a “farmer’s market” that it is locally and sustainably produced.
What has been your greatest struggle as a small farmer in the food industry?
One big struggle for us is that we want our own land, but it is hard when you’re on a small farmer’s budget. We are making a little money, but not enough to save a lot. A great model we have seen elsewhere is creating networks to link older farmers with young farmers who want to learn. Another challenge has been the paperwork involved. Starting our own farm business, it was difficult to figure out what we needed to fill out and what categories we fit into. There doesn’t seem to be a good support system for young farmers.
How do you sell your products… do you sell to restaurants, CSA, farmers market or grocery stores? Why did you choose this distribution method?
Currently, we sell to CSAs and farmers’ markets. The farmer’s market is the best way to get our name out, talk to customers about what they like and meet people in the St. Louis local food business. Having a CSA builds up loyal customers. We hope that in 5 years we can have a big enough CSA to do one drop off a week. We are not quite ready to sell at wholesale prices. Every year we want to get a little bigger and a little smarter about how we farm.
What changes have you seen in the farming industry throughout your lifetime?
Organic and sustainable is becoming so much more common. Farmers’ markets are more of a popular option. People are aware of local farms and want to support them. In the last 5 or 6 years, people have realized that certified organic is not the only way to farm sustainably and as a small scale farmer at a farmers’ market, you don’t necessarily need certification if you practice organically. People are more responsible now and have a greater knowledge about their food. Customers ask about GMOs and sprays and want to know the farmers’ practices and a lot more people are joining the food justice movement. However, it’s mostly the upper middle class buying organic food because it’s difficult to afford this food. A lot farmers’ markets do accept SNAP, and people have realized this problem and are working hard to fix it. We need to make sure healthy food and the organic movement isn’t just middle upper class white people! This year we started donating to a food pantry, but we are always looking for ways to make organic food a right, not a privilege, while still earning a living wage.
What is your favorite growing season/crop?
Fall is my favorite growing season because everything is winding down. In the summer, there is so much to do and it is so hot. In the fall, you’re not planting new stuff but instead harvesting what you planted in the summer. My favorite crop is impossible; in the spring it’s sugar snap peas, in the summer it’s sweet corn and melons, and in the fall it’s winter squash. That is one of the beauties of farming, you get to eat produce at its peak, when it is more delicious than you could possibly have imagined. But then, in a month, it’s over again until next year, but at that point you have more exciting crops coming on.