This story is part of an ongoing series to introduce our community to the local farmers growing food for farmers’ markets and CSAs. For more profiles, click on the Personalities category at right.
As more people look to eat local and decrease their carbon footprint, interest in farm shares has skyrocketed. “Now so many people know about CSAs, I don’t have to explain so much,” says Jacquie Monroe, co-owner of Monroe Organic Farms. But things were different in 1993, when she and her husband launched their CSA. Back then, she first had to start with the reasons for eating organic before moving on to the how’s and why’s of a CSA.
Over the years, her farm share has expanded according to members’ interest. About a decade ago Monroe added eggs; fruit was added about five years ago, in partnership with another grower; pork was added last year and lamb will be added this season. Vegetables come and go, too, such as daikon radishes, edamame and white carrots, which were added in recent years based on customer feedback.
Monroe is a family operation, with husband Jerry running the fields; Jacquie handling bookkeeping and marketing; and their grown children Alaina and Kyle helping out from time to time. Son Kyle intends to take over the business one day; for now, you can usually find him “running around on the four-wheeler,” she laughs.
There’s more to organic farming than just avoiding pesticides. Take crop rotation, for example. Jacquie says that cucumbers do well after strawberries, and garlic does well after the cucumbers. After four different crops have been grown in one area, a crop for animals is planted in that space and the vegetables are moved to a piece of land that hasn’t had crops in it for awhile. “If you move the garden to a different area,” she says, “you stump diseases and bugs.”
This season, members can expect approximately 100 varieties of 30 or so kinds of vegetables, including six types of tomatoes and 4 types of hot peppers, all grown on the 175-acre farm in Kersey, which has been in the family since 1936. Week by week, that translates to an enormous bag of produce, but Jacquie encourages members to think beyond weekly consumption. “Our goal is to tell people how to freeze it as they go. That extends their food dollar into the winter.”