Aaron and Katie, the dynamic duo behind Full Earth Farm, both explored other professions before farming. The list includes barista, baker, bike mechanic, animator, photographer and I even skipped some!
Then five years ago they took a leap together and started farming land in Katie's family. From the looks of it - their smiles, their gorgeous veggies and their happy customers - things are going pretty well.
Where is your farm? Quincy, FL, just west of Tallahassee in the panhandle.
What made you want to be a farmer?
Aaron: I gardened off and on from a young age and was inspired by grandmother's garden in western Pennsylvania. I became interested in organic and ecological agriculture as a way to promote and support human and environmental health. I volunteered and worked for pay a day or two here and there at different organic farms in Florida and western Massachusetts -- after returning to Tallahassee with Katie she decided to start a market garden on her parents land in Quincy and once I started helping out I got hooked.
Katie: I’ve been influenced by Warren Wilson College and women farmers who were roommates in Boston, Ma. After working with Turkey Hill Farm (another CNG farm) doing an apprenticeship I decided to dive right in. After less than a year of learning I started the farm and have been going ever since. This is year five of the farm.
What do you produce? We grow vegetables of all sorts, we've become known locally for our carrots and beets, we also grow heirloom tomatoes and we harvest wonderful lettuce every week from October-May due to the mild (although often
unpredictable) winter climate here. We also produce shiitake mushrooms on oak logs for ourselves and our CSA.
What are your markets? We have a CSA (35 weekly shares), we sell to several restaurants, we sell at a Saturday market, and through an online market that Katie helped start.
Do you farm full-time or have any other jobs? We farm full time, Katie also does lots of volunteer work for a local small farmer organization she co-founded, the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance. [Check our blog post about RHSFA].
Does anyone farm with you? One part time employee, a volunteer who helps most Tuesdays, and Katie's mom helps out at least a couple of mornings most weeks and her father helps on weekends.
Have you had other jobs in the past?
Katie: Animation teacher as a residency at a high school in Adams, MA, Animation Teacher at a summer camp near Boston, MA, Photography Assistant, Photography Teaching Assistant, Bakery Barista, Photographer at Sweet Grass Dairy (this may be where my interest in farming began), hostess and catering jobs too. Most recently I have been a grant manager for a grant received by the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance.
Aaron: Bicycle Mechanic, Bread Baker, degrees in Spanish and Translation, none of those endeavors captivated me like growing produce has.
Why do you feel natural practices are important? Well, it's really all we know. We got into this as a way to make a living while contributing to human and environmental health. Initially, we knew very little about how to grow lots of food efficiently, and we're learning more every season. We focused on natural methods from the beginning. We believe that individuals and communities benefit directly from eating fresh produce, rather than processed food. In addition, waterways like the local lakes and rivers, as well as the underground Floridan Aquifer and the Gulf of Mexico are impacted by how food is grown in our region, as are woodlands surrounding the gardens, which buffer the waterways. So in short, we feel that these natural practices are the best way to use the land, water, and soil.
Why did you get involved with CNG? We liked the idea of being able to network with other growers as well as offer a visible symbol of our commitment to ecological agriculture. We felt that due to our scale and markets, the USDA Organic Certification was unnecessary. We're so small we don't advertise much and we sell everything directly to the customers, whereas we see the USDA certification to make more sense for wholesale markets, or retail markets that really demand that certification. In our area, most people just want to know if it's local and if we use synthetic chemicals or not.
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