Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Farmer Looking for Long-Term Relationships

Press Release: 3/1/15

A share from the 2014 CSA season at Marvin's Garden Produce

Mike Mayberry, gardener at Marvin's Garden Produce in Louisville, KY is on a mission. He is looking to become the main source of organic vegetables for some local families during the growing season.

"Last year, I started a 20 week CSA that is different from other CSA's in the area. The aim of this program is to be an affordable source of ultra-fresh produce. I want to form relationships with consumers that are interested in knowing how and where their food is grown. I have 20 paying memberships and 10 working memberships. I am really focused on quality, value and fostering a sense of community with my members" Mike said.

The CSA or Community Supported Agriculture model is a subscription service that lasts throughout the growing season. Members or shareholders pay a seasonal membership fee in the spring or agree to work in exchange for their share. It is a beneficial model for the grower because it funds the operations of the farm at the beginning of the season when investments have to be made, but farm income is low or nothing. The work/shares also provide valuable extra hands during busy times of the growing season.

"I feel like it is a mutually beneficial relationship that allows lots of local growers to survive." Mike explained. "I also think the work/share component of my (CSA) program is important because it gives access to local produce to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it or would rely on food assistance to meet the membership price" he added.

Work/share memberships agree to work five half-day shifts during the growing season in exchange for their weekly shares.

"I have received a great response this year for work/share members which indicates to me that not enough local growers are offering/advertising this component of CSA culture" he stated.

Like most CSA growers, Mike is focused on providing a wide variety of produce during the growing season, but is also dedicated to making sure people get products they are familiar with and will know how to prepare.

What can members expect to receive in their weekly share? Mike answered that "shares will include lots of salad, carrots, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, squash and peppers which people are familiar with already. But, I also like to give people products like kohlrabi, japanese turnips, tomatillos, Okinawan sweet potatoes, heirloom tomatoes and celeriac to give members something different to expand their horizons a bit."

Along with the garden staples and the oddities, Mike provides recipes through his website and a weekly email. "I like to give people fresh cooking tips, but I'll explain what in the share can be easily preserved for later use as well." 

Mike thinks of himself as a gardener first that is dedicated to organic practices. His one acre garden located in the Shively area of southwest Louisville uses both organic and permaculture practices. "I grow everything on raised beds and don't spray any products on my plants, not even the organic [treatments] commonly used like BT or copper." 

Instead, he focuses on growing in-season and providing the nutrients to plants when they need them. "I am a big believer in adding lots of organic material (compost, leaves, wood chips) as well as spreading compost tea on plants regularly. The combination makes for stronger, healthier - and I think - better tasting plants and fruits that are naturally more resistant to pests and disease. I try to think of the plant's health in the same way people think of their own health, if you are proactive and provide your body with what it needs, you will be able to fight off a lot of common problems that arise."

20 week memberships are available for $300 and will start in late May. Work/share applications are also still being accepted. Space is limited for both programs. A video and frequently asked questions post is available on the garden blog at Contact Mike at or 502 354 8438 with any questions.

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