The physical change is incredible. The last time I visited Carla, I was working as a 4-H Agent and her two children, then in their early teens, were involved in my
programming. They lived in a thickly wooded property in Barrington down a dirt road and Carla tended a garden just large enough for her family. Four or five years later, their road is still unpaved, but they’ve cleared nearly an acre of their property. Just a short walk beyond the driveway, in what used to be a stand of tall pines, sits a neatly tended and fenced quarter acre plot of rows planted in spring greens. Welcome to Determination Farm.
“It’s a blank canvas, really” Carla explain to me as she surveys the rest of the yard, across to the back of the house where another, smaller and older plot sits. I can tell she is seeing the next five and ten years unfold. There are blackberry and raspberry bushes in that vision, more blueberries, better space for potatoes. Her soil is better in that vision, too. Currently, she works row by row to slowly replace the sandy soil with nutrient-dense materials. “Cover cropping about 30% of my rows this winter is my goal. I try to take on just a little and improve bit by bit.”
In a corner of her fenced plot is a small greenhouse, about 15 feet long. The frame was borrowed from an old carport and her husband, Marc, dedicated some of his time to transform it into a greenhouse. Inside are plugs of a variety of different greens, growing forests of tomato plants and some of the tastiest mustard greens I have had in some time. Carla gets very excited about the lettuce, sharing with me the different varieties and the joy she has in each step of the lettuce’s life from seed to transplanting, cutting and later bagging for market sales and for her CSA customers. “The lettuce is what I really like growing and I see myself really concentrating on the customers who love their salads.”
It’s a new act in life for Carla. She grew up in the South (Missouri) and moved north, studying psychology before becoming a caseworker. She later married her husband, had two children and homeschooled them through high school. With her children in early adulthood, Carla was ready for a new phase in life. Determination Farms is just two years old and in its fledgling stage. Wisely, she has started very small with only a handful of CSA customers. She knows exactly how many CSA shares she needs to break even and what her limit is, should she reach it. She has some tentative plans to sell extra greens to try to maximize her sales potential. She knows a lot of her investments may not repay themselves for years (if ever), but she has plans to keep growing, little by little.
Determination Farm is still accepting CSA members for the 2018 CSA season. For more information about the farm and its CSA program, visit their website.