The Beginning of Produce on the Move
Sometimes the best way to begin is just to begin. That’s part of the inspiration behind Pocahontas County’s new CSA, Produce on The Move. But what does it take to actually begin moving the local foods economy forward? Dawn Baldwin-Barrett, one of the driving forces behind Produce on the Move, said that the story began over a year ago.
“I’m Dawn Baldwin-Barrett. I have a farm up in the north end of the county called Brightside Acres, where I grow organic produce and fruit and raise chickens and harvest wild herbs and plants off the land,” she said. “Last summer I had this kind of crazy idea that I was going to try to aggregate produce from several area growers and distribute it around to potential buyers, like restaurants and institutions. And once I got started, I just really couldn’t stop. During that process, it was great because I met a whole lot of people, and I ended up working with about 7 different farmers and selling to about 7 places.”
Produce on the Move is a partnership between Dawn’s Brightside Acres in Bartow and S & S Farm in Minnehaha Springs. S & S is owned by Steve and Mary Saffle, who worked with Dawn last summer when she started this project. “We got in this habit of every Thursday, we’d sort of sit on their porch and talk about how to make this more into a business that you could depend on,” she said, “because even though I was doing it every week, the orders were very inconsistent. And so [Steve] suggested starting a CSA.”
A CSA, which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture,” is a locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution, where members pay at the beginning of the growing season, and then they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit. For this first year of Produce on the Move, people had the option to buy in a month at a time or for the whole season, receiving a weekly selection of 7-10 pounds of the best local produce available, along with products like eggs, honey, and jam from July to November.
“My new theory on all of this is: sometimes the best way to begin is just to begin,” Baldwin-Barrett said. “If you waited until you understood what it was all about and all the risks and benefits and pros and cons, you’d never begin.”
“Four years ago, I joined the farmer’s market and started selling produce for the first time, and during that time I started going to meetings about local foods,” she said. “I didn’t see a whole lot of change happening, and basically I just decided last summer, I was going to get out there on the road, talk to farmers, talk to buyers, and see what I could put together. I just started. I’m really glad I did because I gained so much knowledge from doing that about the markets and also about the county. Now I know people all over the county and they know me, and I think that one of the reasons why we’ve had such a wonderful initial reaction to the CSA is because of that. I don’t think just starting from scratch, if I hadn’t done what I did last season in building good will, that it would have started out so well.”
Pocahontas County’s Produce on the Move is based at 503 Third Avenue in Marlinton. Memberships are now closed for 2014, but they’re already accepting applications for the 2015 season, which will run from April through November. For more information, visit www.brightsideacres.com.
“There are advantages and disadvantages to living in a small place, and advantages and disadvantages of living in a big city like Memphis,” Baldwin-Barrett said. “But I know more people here, and know them better than I knew my neighbors in Memphis. I see people more. I talk to them more, and I work with them to collaborate to get things done. And that’s something that, in my life, I’ve only experienced in Pocahontas.”
“And so, if you want to get something done, I believe you can, if you want to try a new thing. The buy-in cost, so to speak, of taking that risk is relatively small, and the rewards—for me, at any rate—have been great, because that’s one of the things I wanted when I decided to live here full time. I wanted community. I wanted to know people. And I wanted to feel like I was making a difference, an impact in some way.”