Meet the Farmers at Our Community Farm!
Matt Coffay and Casara Logan of Second Spring Market Garden are in the house! The greenhouse, that is.
We want to send a big welcome to these first vegetable producers in our new Farmer Incubator Program, and a thank you to all the volunteers who helped put up infrastructure so they can start growing.
Second Spring Market Garden offers Asheville’s first 52-week CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) supplying fresh produce year-round. They will be growing a variety of vegetables using organic methods and efficient four-season production with two heated greenhouses now in place on our Community Farm.
SAHC currently has two farm ventures — Second Spring Market Garden and a heritage breed Pineywoods cattle operation — participating in our Farmer Incubator Program. The program provides low-cost access to land and resources for new or expanding agricultural operations and is aimed at helping the next generation of farmers fill the gap left as aging farmers retire.
“We’d spent several months looking for land,” explains Coffay. “We were selling out of produce each week with our existing markets and needed to expand up to about an acre-and-a-half of production in order to really be able to earn full-time incomes as growers. Land access is one of the biggest challenges facing young farmers, though — especially in an area like Asheville, where relatively flat, inexpensive acreage is hard to come by. Plus, in terms of leasing a property, renting cheap land with no infrastructure (water, electricity, vehicle access, etc) makes starting a farm –which is already no easy task — even more challenging.”
“When we found the Farmer Incubator Program, we knew we’d finally landed at the right spot. The folks at SAHC are assisting us with building the infrastructure we need in order to farm effectively on a small scale. We’ve also been given access to land at a rate that’s affordable for us. Without the Incubator, we’d probably still be looking for farmland.”
Second Spring is now taking sign-ups for 2015 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. Paying for crop shares early in the year gives farmers some stability and provides up-front capital for supply purchases. Members of a CSA are then provided a weekly box share of the crop throughout the year.
“We’re really excited to be offering the first 52-week fresh vegetable CSA in Asheville,” added Coffay. “We believe that local food only really works if it’s available every week of the year. Community Supported Agriculture really does create community, too: our customers get to know one another, and we always invite folks to come out and see where their food comes from (and even lend a hand on the farm if they’d like). It also makes an enormous difference for us when people pay for their share at the beginning of the year, when expenses are high and income is low; so, we always ask that our members send in their payments as early in the year as they can manage.”
Also participating in the Farmer Incubator Program is Gina Raicovich with her herd of Pineywoods cattle, a resilient but now rare heritage breed. Her agricultural operation will involve breeding of Pineywoods cattle and grass-finishing for market (selling yearling heifers and grass-fed beef), utilizing 26 acres of pasture on the Community Farm with rotational grazing.
Last fall, Raicovich chose to lease land through the Farmer Incubator Program because it provides an affordable pasture lease with proximity to town, allowing her to keep a regular job while growing the herd.
“My lease at the SAHC Community Farm is allowing me to access land close to downtown Asheville so that I can easily grow a small herd while I continue to work full time and look for a more permanent land base for my operation. Ideally I’ll grow my operation to a profitable size before it’s time to leave the farm and shoulder a mortgage on my own land.”
The Farmer Incubator Program was introduced last year, and continues to accept applicants on a rolling basis. Funding for the successful launch of the program has been provided by the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Southern SARE, US Department of Agriculture, and New Belgium Brewing Company.