Editor’s note: This is the ninth in a series of monthly articles following a farm family through the course of a year. This year, Rural Life Today is following the Sandy and Guy Ashmore family in Clinton County.
CLARKSVILLE — Guy and Sandy Ashmore of That Guy’s Family Farm are at a crossroads of selling the rest of their product, while ordering for next year at the same time. This is typical for most farmers during this time of year. In addition to preparing for the 2019 growing season, Guy said, “It’s always good to reflect on where we’ve been and what’s coming up.”
The Ashmores became certified organic in 1998, after spending a decade transitioning their traditional farm of corn, beans and wheat to one that concentrated on produce. Now more than 20 years later the couple is still, “firm in our commitment to train other farmers in organic — we’re firm in out commitment to growing organic,” said Sandy.
Guy added that there is a big gap between farmland and people. “We want people to realize that [food] doesn’t come out of the back of Kroger,” said Guy. “We have this big disconnect.”
“If you can keep connections to farmers and farmland through farmers markets and CSAs (community supported agriculture), that also connects people to the land,” said Sandy, adding that the connection between the consumer and the food they are eating is important to maintain. The Ashmores are about halfway through their CSA winter season. This year they have 35 members, which is about the same as last year. They also participate as vendors at the Deerfield Farmers Market, just north of Cincinnati.
Guy and Sandy welcome others to visit their farm. “We want to help and encourage new growers. We’ve always kind of done that, and we want to see that through, to help push another generation or two” said Guy.
They are firm in their commitment to train other farmers in organic practices, intending to help and encourage new growers and the next generation. “If there isn’t anyone to get practical experience from then you could lose the next generation,” said Sandy.
Sandy shared a quote by Wendell Berry, an agrarian writer, environmental activist and farmer. “People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food,” quoted Sandy.
The other hope of Guy and Sandy is that future generations can make a living by farming, “and that a small acreage can still be viable,” said Guy. “I think we’ve kind of grown up thinking ‘labor’ was a dirty word,” said Guy, adding that people they know who own restaurants are finding it difficult to find dedicated workers.
Guy explained there is a similar issue for people who own and operate machine and welding shops, and admits that “there’s a big gap with carrying that forward. When you don’t have a mentor to go to, people don’t see an opportunity to go into that field.”
They are also reviewing applications for next year’s apprentices. Every year they welcome two apprentices to stay at their farm for about five months, where they work on the farm and learn about the business. Guy and Sandy would like to have decided on the apprentices by the end of February or the first of March.
The Ashmores are getting ready to put in seed orders, which they have to place in a timely manner because some organic seeds are first come, first served, especially sweet potatoes. Their sweet potato slips (shoots that are grown from a mature sweet potato) come from Kansas State University, and there is a limited supply for organic. Sweet potatoes are actually a tropical plant.
“Seed orders are fun,” said Sandy, and Guy agreed.
“You can get too ambitious,” said Guy. “You want to try all these new varieties or you heard about something from another grower, so you want to try it. Then you have to scale back and say ‘hold on here.’”
However, sourcing organic seeds can have its challenges. But the Ashmores said that more and more companies are offering organic seeds.
They place group orders with other farmers, which they have been doing for about 12 years, through Fedco Seeds group ordering.
Next year they plan to plant more onions and asparagus.
The Ashmores have also been keeping busy with field planting for next year, as well as crop rotations. They’ve also been meeting with buyers.
They are continuing with normal equipment maintenance and repairs, including installing new windows in the older part of their farmhouse. They are planning to purchase a new 4-row planter this year. Their current one is from the early 1960s. “So maybe we can upgrade to the 1980s,” said Guy, laughing along with Sandy, who added, “Maybe the 1990s.”
“We try not to invest in anything that rusts, rots, or depreciates. We try to invest in things that appreciate, like seeds, animals, people,” said Guy.
Guy and Sandy spent Christmas with their family, and Sandy sent out her yearly Christmas card. Every year she creates one that’s inspired by the farm. This year she focused on the red and green colors of radishes they grew. They also cut down their own tree for Christmas, which they have been doing since 1980.
They will continue to harvest greens through the end of January.
Next month: Seed orders and getting ready for spring.