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By Mindy Crandall
Every week a new article is written for the Reflections column. In doing so, appointments have to be scheduled and research has to be done in order for the article to have an impact. Not always and this was the case, does an interview become possible. In working with a deadline for a weekly paper, one must realize that failure is not an option and if a potential interview doesn’t work out, you must go after another and on short notice. However, I must add, this does not take away from the importance of the article being written in its place.
Tuesday afternoon I met with Jeff and Rachel Barry, a young couple living in Ava, to discuss the process and procedures of their organic garden. Even though it was late in the day Tuesday and I knew I would have to have this article in by Wednesday morning, I somehow knew that this was the right decision. It wasn’t a mistake or a fill in for the interview that didn’t materialize. They truly were a great couple to meet.
I immediately felt comfortable around these two as they quietly, but with confidence discussed how their plan and dream of starting an organic garden became reality. It all started when they purchased an eighteen-acre farm just outside of Ava.
Two years ago, Jeff began preparing three acres of their land for a garden by working up the soil. Since that time, they have written a grant and received funds to install a solar irrigation system and have built a 20×50 greenhouse. The solar irrigation system is gravity fed and pumped from a creek down to a holding tank. Jeff did not purchase a manufactured irrigation kit, he designed the set up himself. However, he did do a lot of research. When asked how much time they both spend on learning about organic gardening, the reply was the same, “Hours and hours each week, reading and researching concepts via the internet.” “It’s scary when you think about how much time you spend on there.” Besides the internet, both have read several books on the subject with many more still on the reading list. Jeff also commented by saying, “We never miss an opportunity to visit other organic farms.”
Currently, they have several berries planted – blackberries, raspberries, elderberries and chokeberries. Some are doing better than others, but all are still living and in the first real year of growing. Six or seven vegetables have also been planted so far, mostly greens. Rachel and Jeff began planting things that they knew would do well. Right now, they sell some of their spinach locally at Jean’s Healthway.
Jeff and Rachel use mostly heirloom seeds, but do not use any one particular company. They have used five or six different seed banks. Jeff is hoping to one day be able to save his own seeds, but only for personal use.
As for their future plans, it is not definite. They have several ideas. They have not given up on the idea of owning a restaurant here in Ava that only serves fresh, homegrown, organic foods. Impressed that we still have a farmer’s market, both would like to expand their organic produce and sell locally, but not exclusively. They also would like to see CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) implemented here in the Ozarks. CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge to support a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically members or “share holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer’s with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.
This dynamic duo did not start this adventure due to high food prices or the economy. Money was not the issue. Both decided that they would love to some day become their own boss and both have a passion for gardening. Organic growing was never an option, it was their only choice as both strongly believe in its importance.
Jeff and Rachel definitely have future plans, but exactly where they are headed is not certain. Both have been inspired by the developing friendships formed and look forward to experiencing more.
I want to thank you both for taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with me. You both inspire me. I wish you nothing but the best of luck in the future.
Both Jeff and Rachel had a dream of one day owning a farm to organically grow food. Today it has become reality. It isn’t always about how quickly something matures, but the patience it takes to sit back and watch it take shape.