ASAP Local Food Strong Farms Healthy Communities

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Paige Witherington & Justin Dansby of Pitch Pine Farm

ASAP likes to share the stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month, we talk with Paige Witherington and Justin Dansby of Pitch Pine Farm in Transylvania County.

Q: How did you get into farming?

A: Justin grew up surrounded by a farming community and Paige fell in love with farming in college. After exploring various options for a career, none offered as much hard, rewarding work, reliance on nature, and a need for smart planning and problem solving as small scale farming. Paige and Justin pursued an apprenticeship with a very successful CSA farm (Sisters Hill Farm in Stanfordville, NY) and gained valuable experience for managing a business, building a farm from the ground up, and developing efficient farm systems. Now in their 16th season farming full time they are as passionate and motivated as ever to grow great food, take care of the land, and engage in the community.

Q: What do you feature in your CSA program?

A: Our CSA program features a weekly box of vegetables and herbs that is picked fresh the day of distribution. All of the produce in the box is grown on our farm and is all certified organic. We pay special attention to crop quality, diversity of vegetables, and providing portions of vegetables that are useful for typical families. The weekly produce box is a direct connection to the seasons, the farmers, the weather, and the land.

Q: Why are CSAs important to your farm’s success?

A: CSAs provide us with a level of stability and early season income that funds initial season start up costs like fertilizers, seeds, and infrastructure. Because we pre-sell a majority of our food through the CSA we can create a crop plan that helps the farm season unfold seamlessly. With the guaranteed market for what we grow, CSA relieves stress during the most demanding time of the season. Additionally, the CSA gives us a close connection to our customers. It’s awesome knowing that we can feed the same families week after week.

Q: How has your CSA evolved over the years?

A: While our CSA program has always been based on a variety of food that we grow, we are continually changing and adapting our program. We survey our members to gain feedback about quantity and variety of crops. Noting the demand for seasonally challenging things, like early tomatoes and cucumbers, or summertime lettuces, we can adapt our infrastructure and growing methods to satisfy these needs. For instance, we built two high tunnels for early summer crops and utilize shade cloth for summertime greens.

Q: Tell us about the interesting thing you do if a subscriber misses a pick up.

A: If a subscriber misses a pick up, they can send a friend or neighbor to retrieve their share or they can let us know and we donate their share to the local food pantry. Any shares leftover are donated each week.

Q: Anything new that you are growing this year?

A: This year we are growing microgreens, adding some new cutting type lettuce heads for consistent lettuce mix, and a few new varieties of tomatoes. We love variety for security – in case something fails – but also to add color and interest to our CSA boxes.

Q: We’re just about to enter the growing season. What are you most looking forward to?

A: After what seems like a very long winter, we are excited to get back to the fields and tending plants. This past month we were able to break ground on our newly purchased four acre plot of land of some of the richest soil I’ve seen. This new acreage will widen our crop rotation and will include lots of cover crops creating healthier soils, lively vegetables, and happy farmers.