Aliza & Timothy Cummings created their farm The Gathering Place around core values of community, healing, and faith. Their 10 acres of fruit, veggies and herbs supply several farm stands and restaurant accounts in their community in Jacksonville and the surrounding area in northeastern Alabama. Timothy and Aliza have been farming full-time together for about five years with temporary help from customers and community members, ages 2 to 80!
Read on for the story behind their farm name as well as Tim and Aliza’s vision for the future of their farm.
What do you grow? Do you have a specialty?
We specialize in heirloom produce & saving seed. We also grow culinary & wildcraft medicinal herbs.
What are your markets?
Aliza manages a local Jacksonville farmers market. We market to restaurants & local community. We set up a stand in a few different churches to sell produce & herbs. We also supply 2-3 products a week to another farmer’s CSA.
How did you choose a name for your farm?
We feel like there has always been a purpose for gathering. It is good for us to come together, whether to reason together, talk, sing, work, play, teach, learn, to give or receive something; a gathering place is necessary. Our gathering of the fruit of our labors also allows us to help feed many others.
What is unique or unusual about your farm?
We started as a ministry serving people. Then it took a turn to feeding people, then to growing healthy food to feed the people. It eventually evolved to include herbs for healing people. We think our farm is special because we offer a healthy way of life both spiritually & naturally. We open our hearts, lives & home to all that would come to the gathering place.
Why did you get involved with CNG?
We had another farmer friend who suggested it as an alternative to certified organic. The price & requirements were right in line with the way we felt it should be.
What tricks and solutions have you invented to address challenges on your farm?
Each year we have been improving our soil in sustainable ways from our dried chicken & horse poop, chicken feather tea, to compost tumblers that Tim designed to help make it easier & faster to get the compost in the ground. We built an outdoor kitchen to make washing produce much easier and portable chicken coops that you can move from place to place. We began trellising things to save on space & to save our backs. Our companion plantings of herbs & flowers have become a great sales niche for us, especially during low yield times.
How do you further your farm learning?
We attend, workshops, conferences, classes, and read a lot. We have great teachers who mentor us. We glean from the wisdom of older farmers.
How do you include customers in your farming operation?
We invite our customer to come out & visit, pick, tour, and work. Many times they end up staying for lunch or dinner. Farming is not our living, it is our life.
What unexpected customer interactions have been especially rewarding?
A young college student from abroad began buying from us regularly at the farmers market because we are Certified Naturally Grown. We learned that when she first came to America she got very sick. She changed her diet to all natural & her health was restored. We were so excited that we were able to help provide that healthy food when she came here for college. She is a great testimony.
What plans or hopes do you have for your farm in the future?
Our vision is to produce food for our region. We see ourselves growing bigger, better & more each year and extending our growing seasons; eventually we’d like to function as a farm with produce, herbs, bees, livestock, & dairy, alongside with a quaint little store & restaurant selling local goods from as many farms that would to join us.