Updated Fri, Jun 7, 2013 2:09 pm
Members from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) visited Green Edge Gardens in Amesville on Wednesday morning to get a firsthand look at how the farm operates, what cultivation challenges it faces and how organic farming economically supports the surrounding community — on both a consumer and producer level.
ARC Federal Co-Chair Earl Gohl and Chief of Staff Guy Land toured the farm, led by farm owner Becky Rondy.
“What these folks have done here is really interesting,” Gohl said.
Green Edge Gardens is a 120-acre property that produces fully certified seasonal vegetables and specializes in microgreens and mushrooms. There are 10 high tunnel greenhouses on the farm to ensure year-round, weekly harvests.
“Everything you see here is our way of making money from our crops with the unique resources that we have,” Rondy said.
The microgreen and mushroom rooms are powered by a natural gas well in the winter months. Rondy said the farm’s microgreens, which include crops such as radish, kale and buckwheat are only grown from certified sprouting seed and are a popular item for consumers. She said the workers take about 200 pounds of food out of the microgreen room each week.
Rondy said some major challenges to running the farm include flooding, reaching maximum growing capacity and the inability to produce enough heat in the winter to grow crops like basil.
“We always have too much water,” farm manager Dan Kneier said. “Like any farm, we have to assess our strengths and weaknesses.”
Kneier said he’s been cultivating produce with Green Edge Gardens since 2004 because he wanted to organically farm in the Southeast Ohio region.
“I feel like this type of farming is very entrepreneurship-like. Really, your only option is to start your own farm,” Kneier said. “It’s getting better and more promising each year.”
Green Edge Gardens currently has 13 full-time employees, said Miranda Krinler, coordinator for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Rondy said that while the farm is at maximum growing capacity, the CSA program has helped to bring in significant financial support.
In the CSA program, community members can purchase a “farm share” of the farm for the growing season in return for a weekly portion of the harvest. Krinler said over 200 families participated in last winter’s CSA program.
“People will pay a premium to have a local vegetable in the winter,” she said.
Gohl said the local food movement appears to be gaining ground in the region.
“It’s pretty clear that there’s a lot of energy here in the Athens area,” he added.
The Appalachian Foodways Tour will hit 13 states. The tour began in March in North Carolina, and members of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Education are participating.
According to the ARC’s website, the commission has invested $7.6 million in local food systems-related projects in every Appalachian state since 2001.
Other stops in Ohio included the Chesterhill Produce Auction, the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks (ACEnet) and meeting with Federal Hocking Local Schools to discuss implementing more fresh produce into school lunches.
Gohl said the goal of the tour is to highlight successful local food systems, have conversations about how communities can support the systems and to help the systems develop partnerships with organizations that can support them.
“Everybody has a little different take on this,” Gohl said. “But the one thing that is common is that there’s a lot of energy for this,” he said.