Lynn Pugh taught chemistry and biology for 20 years, but no longer practices what she used to preach.
Since 2002, Pugh has operated Cane Creek Farm, growing vegetables, herbs and fruits, all free of chemicals.
Her passion for farming quickly developed from a hobby into a business. Cane Creek Farm is now a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, where families pay a seasonal fee to pick up produce each week.
When Pugh first started the business, she provided fresh produce to 10 families. This summer, 100 families will pick up their weekly baskets.
By being a Community Supported Agriculture family, customers are assured prices on fruit won’t be affected by gas prices or the economy, Pugh said. But there is no guarantee they can get a certain thing each week.
“So they take the risk with the farmer, who is at the mercy of nature, as to what exactly is going to happen that season,” she said. “It’s always true of farmers, but it’s a new thing for consumers to also take the risk with the farmer.”
CSA customers don’t get to shop for their produce. If squash isn’t available that week, buyers have to look elsewhere. With a variety of more than 50 items, however, Pugh said she manages to keep customers happy.
“I’m growing for a family for their needs for the week, so I vary it,” she said. “Each week they get about eight to 10 different things. I grow many, many things with lots of variety of each of the things I grow.
“I grow so many different things that it’s highly unlikely they might not get food, it just might not be the food that’s desired.”
Cane Creek Farm is one of many members of Certified Naturally Grown Inc., which bills itself as a more affordable alternative to USDA Organic-certified produce.
The small family farms follow similar standards, but without having to pay higher costs and fees associated with being certified organic.
While buying fresh from a farm has its downfalls, Pugh said the benefits outweigh inconvenience and buying natural is making a comeback. Natural and organic crops may even be the way of the future.
“Environmentally, this is the way that preserves our land,” she said. “Health-wise, it protects us by giving us foods that are full of nutrition that don’t have any contaminants or things that cause health problems.
“For our community, it’s good because it keeps the money and the resources in the community so that food is local and it’s a lot more secure and safe.”
In addition to growing crops, Pugh also teaches organic growing classes. Some students, she said, have gone on to establish farms or manage farmers markets in their communities.
Among her first pupils was Kristina Lefever, who works about 1,200 square feet of Pugh’s 17-acre-property.
Since taking classes from Pugh, Lefever has become a fellow Certified Naturally Grown farmer, growing produce ranging from onions and garlic to turnips and carrots.
Lefever sells her crops through a farmer’s market. Buying locally, she said, is a healthier, tastier and fresher approach to produce.
“You have a very good chance of ingesting a lot more pesticides than you would if you were careful and went with organically grown produce,” she said. “I think people are getting very interested in the health aspects of the food.
“People are starting to realize we’ve really got to swing back and get pesticides and herbicides out of the food we eat ... but there is still a long way to go.”
Pugh said with the current economy, people may think twice about spending extra money for fresh produce.
“It has been difficult in the past because food has been so cheap and people expect not to have to pay much for food,” she said. “But when we do it on a small scale, you can’t expect for it to be cheap. I think that people want to do this.”
E-mail Jennifer Sami at firstname.lastname@example.org.