One Acre Farm
Why our Partnership Works
Don’t let the name confuse you. One Acre Farm lies on 34 beautiful acres in Montgomery County's expansive Agricultural Reserve. After more than 10 years of renting land, Mike, and his wife, Kristin, purchased this farm in April 2017 and they are thrilled to have a permanent home. Creating community is what it’s all about for Farmer Mike.
In Conversation with Farmer Michael Protas and Membership Coordinator Charlotte Henderson of One Acre Farm.
Tell us about One Acre Farm and your mission in our community.
We started the farm 10 years ago. The idea of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) has been the most attractive model. The human interaction with our members means the most to me. Our members have an honest stake in the whole operation from the weather to the vegetables themselves. It’s much more rewarding to see them personally invested in the farm. From seed to plate, education is a key part of the CSA experience.
Why is it important to form community partnerships like this one?
What we really appreciate is the guaranteed weekly market which helps us to plan in advance. Adventist subsidizes the cost on a sliding scale for its employees. Also, we are able to get our customers to understand that our market is a bargain compared to what they’d spend at a grocery store. This high quality of vegetables is within their budget reach, with the subsidy – plus you get to eat healthier and buy locally. We are opening people’s eyes to what’s available and how local, fresh food is tastier and more nutrient-dense.
As we talk with folks, many who have lived in this area for decades, they have no idea there are so many local farms, orchards and wineries – within a 10 minute drive!
What are your suggestions for other businesses that want to consider replicating a partnership like this one?
Perseverance. This partnership was 10 years in the making. I have learned you need to find willing partners who are predisposed to wanting to do this first. Once we have buy-in, we are eager to come up with a way to make it happen.
Adventist tells us the line forms to buy fresh vegetables well before the market opens. To what do you attribute this success?
Especially since it’s subsidized by the hospital, people come to the check out with their fresh goods. They may have $50 worth of vegetables and they pay much less. Folks are so appreciative of what we are able to offer, thanks to this great partnership. The Adventist partnership is a wonderful model to promote healthy eating while supporting our local farm.
Why is it important to introduce people to fresh vegetables, sometimes veggies that are completely new to them?
Let’s face it, people expect the obvious, corn, peaches. Maybe they were less willing to try something different like kohlrabi. That’s the role we play with providing recipes and ideas. Making recipe cards. Trying new recipes. Encouraging trying something new.
Do you grow everything you bring to the market?
Mostly it is what we grow but sometimes we bring in what you might call a ‘loss leader.’ Like portabella mushrooms or corn to get people ‘in the door.’ Once they’re with us, they may try some of the different veggies we bring to the market. We buy specialty items from a great local orchard, Lewis Orchards, and a regional organic co-op.
What will the future hold for partnerships?
Thinking about a loyalty card program. Keep track of purchases. Figuring out how to reward the employees even more if they buy a diverse range of vegetables. Perhaps we’ll find other partnerships where we can encourage a longer-term contract; that would give us the ability to plan well in advance for the crops we grow. With a longer commitment, we can devote more attention to growing more specialty items, like mushrooms, blueberries, herbs, and strawberries.
50% of the value of the CSA is the value of the crops. The other 50%? The educational component that include the triumphs to the failures of local farming.
By collaborating with Adventist, we bring the farm to the customer, in a sense. Wonderful fresh, local vegetables are within reach.