WAVERLY – Many have the idea that during winter there’s not much activity on the farm. That is a misconception, according to Cameron and Mandy Way of Way Farms.
Activity may not be out in the fields, but a lot is going on behind the scenes.
In early February, the Ways started their greenhouse activity with flowers and herbs, plus vegetable plants that will be used on the farm to transplant to the fields. Tomatoes, bell peppers and onion sets are among the early plantings, with tomatoes set to be planted in March in one of the high tunnels, where, according to Cameron, heat and environment can be controlled. Low tunnels are used, too.
“Typically, around the 10th to the 15th of March, we use some techniques to inhibit the frost potential,” Cameron says. “We use low tunnels to plant cucumbers, watermelons and cantaloupes – things that are a little more sensitive to frost.”
Cameron explains that low tunnels are small greenhouses placed over the plants with a machine that sets wiring into the ground about 36-inches wide, and places a plastic covering over the wiring to create a small greenhouse effect.
“It gives us a little bit of an advantage,” Cameron says.
A passion for farming
What started as a hobby in 2003 with a goal of providing fresh, accessible produce at reasonable prices to southern Ohio, is now a full-time passion. The 50-acre Pike County farm is planted with succession plantings of a wide variety of crops.
Mandy loves working with the customers and letting them know where their food comes from, while Cameron likes working with the plants and the soil. “I just enjoy raising crops,” Cameron says. “I don’t mind going to farmers markets, but I’d much rather be out in the field, watching things grow.”
“I love being able to harvest and sell what Cameron provides for us,” Mandy says.
Ohio Farm Bureau
Also, during these winter months, the Ohio Farm Bureau is focused on getting more members, and that’s a personal issue for the Ways.
“We’re seeing the trend of not having young farmers coming up in the ranks,” Mandy says. “You get worried about not only finding labor, but having people understand the work that’s involved in growing and harvesting their own food.”
The Farm Bureau currently is recruiting young farmer members, ages 18 to 25. Membership is $20, and that includes full voting rights, and trips to conferences across the state that are paid for by the Farm Bureau.
Mandy explains the goal of the effort is to get youth engaged in agriculture.
“To get started in agriculture is not cheap, and that’s the biggest hurdle for young farmers,” Mandy says. “To start your own farm, it’s financially intensive to get loans, equipment and land.”
The Ways also are involved with the local Farm Bureau, Pike County Chamber of Commerce and Chillicothe Farmers Market, where Mandy is on the board. She also serves on the board for the Pike County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“We try to promote Pike County in all aspects, not only for our own farm, but just to show what all is going on in our county,” Mandy says.
Southern Ohio Growers Cooperative (SOGC)
Way Farms is part of SOGC, a group of eight farms organized with the help of The Ohio State University South Centers in Piketon, selling pumpkins to retailers as one organization.
“We found as a small farm, the big box stores want thousands and thousands of products,” Mandy says. “We couldn’t have our own retail markets if we’re supplying to these big box stores. But collectively, we’re able to market as one organization.”
Mandy says most of the products are staying in Ohio, but one of the distribution centers serves 13 states.
“It’s exciting that we have an Ohio sticker on a pumpkin that can be in 13 states across the eastern United States,” she says. “I would never have thought when Way Farms started 15 years ago we would be able to wholesale, because we’re a small farm. This cooperative has really helped us.”
This is the third year for the cooperative, and each year the contracts are increasing. “We’re hoping to get some new markets for our pumpkins,” Mandy says.
Community Supported Agriculture
This is the first year for Way Farms to be part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). The food subscription program has been popular in communities of all sizes, Mandy says, but locally they are seeing residents in small communities say they are willing to pay $20 a week for the food subscription program, which partners the farm and the customer with guaranteed produce for 15 to 20 weeks.
“We’re basically saying that we will provide you with some sort of fresh produce in exchange for your membership in our farm,” Mandy says. For more information about CSA, visit their website at www.way-farms.com, send Cameron and Mandy a message on Facebook or call them at (740) 222-0179.
Through the seasons
With wintertime activity soon turning to spring planting in the fields, it won’t be long until the farm will be at its peak. Planting will make way for harvesting, and during the summer, the Ways will provide fresh produce for patrons in Waverly, Portsmouth, Jackson and Chillicothe.
According to Cameron and Mandy, the markets remain open until the end of October, then the pick-your-own pumpkin patch begins, followed by the sale of Ohio-grown Christmas trees.