What's Happening on the farm
We’ve officially launched the agri-tourism aspect of our farming operation!
We’re pleased to announce that we have a new website, that not only allows for booking our accommodations, but also a new (and we hope improved) online store. We hope you take time to visit our new website, after all it has been nearly 15 years since we last updated our site, so we appreciate any feedback as far as usability and content. We’ve also listed our accommodations on Airbnb. You can view our listing for the Barn Apartment and our glamping site. We are a little nervous diversifying into Agri-Tourism because there is a lot of competition in our area, and we’re not quite sure how well we can market this aspect of our business on our tiny budget!
We are especially indebted to Natalie Hesed, who has a couple years experience in the vacation cabin rental business, and has been offering us advice from a marketing perspective and educating us on how Airbnb works. Not only has she helped draft the content of our listing, but we’ve bombarded her with so many questions over the past year; such as what kind of towels, bed sheets, aesthetics, how many pillows each guest needs etc. She never seems annoyed with our endless questions that we’ve had over the past year and has shared her secrets as to what has made her rentals successful. We are so fortunate to live in such an incredible community of sharing people.
Please help us spread the word about our accommodations. We are especially excited to host small celebrations. Such celebrations include school field trips, birthday parties, family reunions, bachelor and bachelorette parties, company outings, business meetings, writing retreats, or any other special occasion that is suited for the tranquility of being on a small farm.
Join our 2018 CSA.....
All About our 2018 CSA
We know that many of you have enjoyed our custom order style CSA which was especially great for folks wanting to supplement their garden or those who frequently travel because it allowed the flexibility of purchasing produce when you needed it most. We hope to have the custom ordering CSA available again in 2019 once we have a grasp on juggling farming with agri-tourism.
While we understand that many of you who prefer the custom CSA will not be able to join this year, and because we’ve recommended that our Asheville shareholders join other CSA’s, we’d appreciate you sharing our contact information with people you think might be interested in joining a summer CSA. This CSA may be perfect for those who haven’t wanted to commit to a farm for the entire year.
We may seem a bit disorganized in soliciting members for our CSA so late in the season, but at the beginning of the year when doing our planning, we thought we’d attend the North Asheville Tailgate Market as needed to supplement the rental business; however, our market space isn’t available during the summer season.
This transition into agri-tourism has been especially difficult, we can’t project how much labor the rentals will require when we don’t know how many bookings we will have, which also means that we can’t quite plan how many crops to grow. Since the rentals are off to a slower start than we anticipated, we’d like to increase our vegetable production in offering CSA shares which should financially tide us over until we receive more bookings for the rentals.
We will only be doing the CSA if we are able to sign-up 15 CSA Shareholders!So please help us fill our CSA!
How the CSA Will Work:
- All memberships are reserved on a first come, first serve basis.
Please email usto reserve your share.
- We will be delivering for 12 weeks from June 22nd through September 7th.
- Our shares will be priced at $20. Since we are not accepting pre-payments, we expect each shareholder to place their weekly order through the online store, regardless if one is just ordering the Farmer’s Choice.
- Delivery will be Friday each week.Asheville shareholderswill be picking up each week 3 PM at Annie’s Bakery.Address:128 Bingham Rd, Asheville NC 28806.Those picking up at the farm can do so anytime after Friday 7:30 AM, and the shares will be stored in the walk-in, so you are welcome to leave it in the walk-in until it is convenient for you to pick up.
- Wednesday of each week we will send out a eNewsletter that describes produce available that week and the contents of the Farmer’s Choice share. Once you receive the eNewsletter, you will log into the online store and place your order. You may purchase additional produce as the inventory levels will be updated weekly.
- Such produce that you can expect include lettuce, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, sweet peppers, sweet corn, green beans, basil, bulb fennel, irish potatoes. We grow a large diversity of veggies so we are probably missing something!!!
The Plight of two aging farmers as they face retirement
Listen to our Story!!!!!
So honored to have the most amazing story teller in the Southeast, Jen Nathan Orris tell our story. Be sure to visit her website because she has some amazing podcats of the stories she has recorded. She is doing an amazing job in making the voices of our WNC farmers heard by sharing their stories. She makes us realize that it is important to support independent media , just so voices from all walks of life are heard.
Her introduction to the podcast, “During the dot com boom of the 1990s, Julie Mansfield and Carl Evans were software engineers who dreamed of starting a farm. At first they juggled their corporate careers and their agricultural aspirations, but soon realized that farming couldn’t be a weekend job. Hear how they founded Mountain Harvest Organics and what’s next in their farming journey.”
Our transtion from full time production farmers into agri-tourism
It has taken a long time for us to get the Agri-Tourism aspect of our farming business up and running. Four years ago we began this transition when we phased out the Waynesville Tailgate Market in an effort to launch our agri-tourism business. At that time, we knew we were quickly approaching an age where we couldn’t physically grow enough crops to continue being subsistence farmers. For the small organic farm to eke out a living off the land, at the end of the year there is normally no savings left for retirement, just enough to cover living expenses.
Twenty years ago was when we chose to become farmers, our retirement plan was to secure a loan for building a cabin, but since that time, financing has changed and we no longer qualify for a loan. We are lucky we have the Barn Apartment for our apprentice housing that could be inexpensively converted into a rental, and also decided to purchase a camper, rather than build a cabin as we originally had planned to do. In an effort to juggle remodeling the barn apartment and setting up the glamping site, we scaled our production back from having 5 acres of veggies in production to about an acre, just to keep earning a little money to pay our living expenses until the rentals are somewhat established. We are by no means too old to farm, just too old to farm the acreage required to continue being subsistence farmers. If we had chosen to be commodity growers, most of that type of farm work is mechanized, so those farmers are able to farm well into their 70’s. It is just that organic vegetable production, which we think of as the healthy choice and a solution to many of our healthcare issues, is labor intensive.
Diversifying into agri-tourism was a very big and risky decision, because we don’t yet know how marketable this lodging will be. Being farmers, we are accustomed to risk taking, so we took the plunge and are on the path for hosting farm stays. Questions like, “How is the cabin coming along?”, that we are asked from time to time from our social media followers,we realize many people have wondered why it has taken a long time for us to reach this goal. We’d thought you’d like to know that growing organic crops is extremely labor intensive, and because we don’t earn enough to hire help, we’ve had to juggle building our agri-tourism accommodations, along with farming. That means, on a weekly basis, we haven’t had much extra time to allocate in getting our agri-tourism operation up and running. Had we qualified for financing, this transition would have taken a different path, because we could have taken a year off farming.
During our farming career, we put all our hard earned income back into the farm for food production. We had the idealistic vision that the karma from our good intentions of being stewards of the earth and feeding our community, would come back around and help us as we were ready to retire. Sadly, the banks don’t see the farm infrastructure as “valuable”. You’d think that land set aside for growing good healthy organic food would be considered “valuable”. That is not how capitalism works in the USA. Yet again, that was our idealism overriding our realism as we traveled down this path. After all, a farmer must be a little idealistic, because working with mother nature to grow food requires that personality trait.
We still aren’t quite sure about this Agri-Tourism option, because since we chose to be farmers all these years, we don’t have much capital to invest into this new business venture. In fact, we can’t hire labor to keep our property mowed and tidy because we don’t earn enough to pay someone and we spend all our time growing food and working on the accommodations that we don’t have much additional time to mow. We think that since only roughly 2% of the population buys local food directly from a farmer, that folks visiting the farm will have a romantic idea of a farm being like a country club. Our farm is by no means a country club. It has tall grasses, weeds, etc. So we wonder if people are going to be turned off by the farm experience we are offering.
We question ourselves daily of our decision to travel down this path. We’ve contemplated whether we’d be happier going back and doing computer work rather than cleaning accommodations and entertaining guests. We’ve wondered, if we decided to brush up on our computer skills, how long would it take, and at our age would we be discriminated against? We’re even considering selling the farm, then buying a little plot of land just to homestead. The acreage of this farm is just too much for old farts like us. We just wanted you to understand what has been going through our minds. We think that most agri-tourism operations have a lot more capital to invest in their operation than we have.
Not to mention, the farm seems broken down just like the farmers. The market van had to be towed back to the farm a couple weeks ago, so we need to pull the engine out and hopefully it can be fixed because we can’t afford a new used vehicle right now. The walk-in cooler broke, so a new air conditioner has been ordered to fix is problem, but right now we can’t harvest the food that is ready because veggies are extremely perishable. The plastic blew off a couple greenhouses early this year, and we don’t have the financial resources to replace that plastic, so we wonder if this makes the farm look abandoned? Our irrigation filter broke over the winter, which we replaced, because we like to eat fresh food and our budget doesn’t allow us to purchase the food we’re accustomed to eating. We recently had a power outage and our generator isn’t working; luckily the power came back on before our greenhouse tomato crop died. When we had 5 acres under cultivation, we could put our money back into maintaining the farm, but our cash reserves have now been completely invested into the agri-tourism aspect of our business.
The reason we’re sharing our story with you is because we care deeply about the young people who are now carrying the torch for the local food movement. Because we know that you, as supporters of the environment, the local food movement and healthy communities, want to continue being a part of the solution. Perhaps you can help our representatives understand our plight, which can help form policies for positive change, so that maybe our society will take care of our young farmers so that they will have a means for retirement. While some farmers will have family support, many will be like us who live entirely off their farming income. Society must continue to improve our sustainable farming systems, so that they are not only “sustainable” for the environment and providing healthy food, but also sustainable for the farmer. Having a diversified food system is incredibly important, especially with the ever changing climate.
We chose this path and are grateful for this life experience because it has had a profound impact on us. We have cultivated so many incredible relationships along the way; our friendship with Alvin, the apprentices that we’ve had the privilege of working and learning with over the years, with you, with our neighbors, our deep connection to the land, etc. We live in an amazing community of people and we live in a valley with the most beautiful mountains, so we hope that our love for this piece of earth carries us onward. We believe in sustainable agriculture, and feel that if we can’t physically grow as much food as we have in the past, at least we can share our passion with guests and educate them on the importance of supporting a sustainable food system. We spoke with a friend of ours, who we’ve admired because they chose to homestead and have an off the farm job. She commented, that while they are financially secure, they don’t get to enjoy the land as much because they aren’t home too much. So for now we are going to stay the course, enjoy the land and see where this journey takes us.
Carl and Julie