Hold on to your vegetables, folks! We are excited to kick off #farmerfridays, a weekly post highlighting producers and growers right in our very own county. Today, we are thrilled to share about Main Street Farms and the great work being done by Allan, Bob Cat, and the whole MSF team.
SVHC: How long have you been producing or growing in Cortland County?
MSF: We've been farming in Cortland for 8 years. We started with less than an acre...this season, we'll be planting 50 total acres in 3 locations! We have our main farm at the old Reed's Seeds property. We also have hoop-houses at our urban farm on South Ave. and we have the aquaponics system in Homer.
SVHC: Growing food cannot be an easy task to take on, why engage this type of lifestyle?
MSF: The Main Street Farm story began when Allan and Bob Cat met in college at SUNY New Paltz. They bonded over their love of hockey and ended up becoming close friends and roommates. After college, they both went on to be teachers. Allan taught history while Bob Cat taught outdoor education. When Allan saw what his students were being fed in the school cafeteria, it became very apparent to him why the kids were having such a hard time sitting and focusing in class. When he tried to work with the school to improve the cafeteria program, he realized that he would have to tackle the issue from the supply end, so he started a farm. He called up Bob Cat and they became business partners. Both Allan and Bob Cat strongly believe in building a close-knit community and find food a great tool for doing that. Currently, MSF is working hard to turn their farm land into a land-trust with the help of the original owner to ensure it will remain an organic farm in Cortland County forever. Being surrounded by conventional agriculture, Main Street Farms sees the damage that can be done to the land. Our job and hope is to return life to our soil and grow vegetables in a sustainable way.
SVHC: What do you grow?
MSF: We grow over 100 varieties of vegetables at our farm. We do not currently grow any fruit, however, our five-year plan includes a u-pick blueberry operation, so stay tuned! We grow everything from tomatoes to potatoes!...if I listed everything we grow it would take up a whole page, but we are most well-known for our carrots. Above everything else, when people try our carrots they can't believe how good they taste. They are nothing like the bitter, bleach soaked carrots you find at the supermarket. They are incredibly sweet and tasty!
SVHC: What has been your biggest joy as a local grower?
MSF: Our biggest joy is being able to create local jobs and provide a fair wage for our employees and watch our employees grow in skills and ability. Passing on the knowledge of organic farming is a big task and we are so grateful to have committed employees! We truly think we have the best team in the world. We have a farm chef (also our delivery driver) who cooks lunch for our crew every day. We sit down for an hour and just hang out and enjoy the veggies we grow together--we greatly value that time together!
SVHC: What has been your greatest challenge as a local grower in Cortland County?
MSF: Every day and every season presents new challenges. We are constantly "putting out fires" on the farm. Once one thing is fixed, five more things break. It's exhausting trying to keep on top of everything and it always feels like we're running to catch up and never catch our breath. On top of that, we're dealing with mother nature--who is increasing in her unpredictability. Every season is different and we learn new things. We experience years of abundance and years of crop loss. It's hard to teach people about the challenges of growing vegetables seasonally and organically when they can go to the grocery store and get whatever they want whenever they want. We're trying to do a lot more with videos and education on our Facebook page and Youtube to help educate our community.
SVHC: If you could tell your community one thing, what would it be?
MSF: WE LOVE YOU! We take care of our CSA members as if they were our family. Outside of the farm, we try to support our community by going into schools and educating, playing live music, and sitting on boards and councils for the city of Cortland to improve our community. We care about this town so much and do whatever we can to make Cortland a better place to be. We hope that as we grow as a farm and become more successful we can add more infrastructure to support community activities!
SVHC: How can the community purchase your goods or connect with you?
MSF: There are two main ways to purchase our food. The best way to purchase our food is via our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Our summer sign-ups start in February and (sign-ups) end in May. Members who sign up receive a weekly bag of vegetables (small, medium, large) from us. They can either be picked up pre-bagged at Cinch Art Space or members can come hang out with us on Thursdays at Cortland Beer Company and actually select their vegetables (and grab a beer)!
Summer 2018 CSA sign-ups are open now! Members can go here for more info!
There are some great perks to signing up early including:
• 1 Extra Week of CSA for FREE
• Private Farm BBQ in July
• Free Salad Harvest Party at the farm
• U-Pick Pumpkin Patch with a free pumpkin
The second way people can get our vegetables is at the Syracuse Regional Market on Saturdays every week, 52 weeks a year. We have a stand in C-Shed where people can come pick up veggies when they want them.
With either option you choose, we can't wait to meet you!
Also, don't forget, you can keep up with all the happenings of Main Street Farms through Facebook and Instagram (@mainstreetfarms).