Interview with Doris Hibner. Role: Community Farmer
1. What is a CSA?
CSA stands for consumer supported agriculture. Iíd describe it as a partnership between the consumer and the farmer. There are benefits for both parties. For the farmer, most CSAs start planning in January. People sign up and pay in January in full, which gives the farmer cash flow for seeds, equipment and workers and also to know how much to plant. The benefit to the consumer is that they get food right out of the garden and they get to know where it comes from. A CSA is basically the consumer buys shares of garden produce.
2. Why and when did you start your CSA?
I just started the CSA this year. Last year, I moved back to the family farm where I grew up, so Iíve been here about 18 months. Last year, I just did the farmerís market. I had it in my mind to do this in my non-retirement years. I had the idea to come back here from New York where I lived for the past 50 years and be a vegetable farmer.
3. Tell me about your farm. How big is it? How long has it been in the family?
The portion that I own is 111 acres, 14 of which is a woodland lot. Thatís very important to me because I think trees are very important for the planet. My great-grandfather settled the farm, as near as I can tell, in 1858, but that was more across the road. He then proceeded to buy more parcels of land. My grandfather and father were born on the farm. My grandfather raised hogs, sheep ó it was more of a subsistence type of lifestyle. When my dad took over after my grandfather passed away, he turned it into a dairy farm, which it was until 1995. My dad was 75 when he retired.
4. What kinds of produce do you offer?
Well, I suppose 30-plus types. I like heirloom varieties. That way you know they are a pure variety. They are more interesting than the hybridized varieties ó lots of colors, shapes and flavors. The hybrid ones have a higher yield though. Right now, Iím growing five kinds of watermelon, five kinds of cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and I tried celery again this year. I also grow a lot of herbs. I also have a baby orchard.
5. How many people are participating in your CSA this year?
Right now, I only have five, but as this is the first year, thatís a good amount. I hope to get feedback from them on what is going well and what isnít. I also ask them if there is anything theyíd like me to grow because I view this as a partnership.
6. How does the CSA work?
A full box is approximately a bushel of produce and it costs $25, which is the going rate for CSAs. A half a box is a half a bushel of produce and that costs $15. I deliver the boxes once a week to a cousin I have that lives in the Shawnee area and people pick it up from there. The typical season starts on June 1 and goes to the end of October. I wasnít able to start doing boxes until the beginning of July, but Iím hoping to go until Thanksgiving. I am planning and planting a fall garden. Things like radishes, peas, beets, lettuces ó those are all cool-weather crops that you can grow into fall. Last year, I had lettuce up through the middle of December.
7. How do people sign up for their own box for next season?
Right now, Iím on www.localharvest.org and they can get my info through there. As we speak, I am having a website built but itís not up yet. People can also email me at email@example.com to get the form to fill out. I wanted to add that I do take the coupons given out by the Ohio Department of Aging. They are $5 coupons to help low-income elderly buy fresh fruits and vegetables. I am open to taking those.