Type: Sustainable Vegetable Farm
Years in operation: 3
Annual revenue: 50k-100k
(Average over last three years)
Upper Pond Farm is a sustainable vegetable farm in the Connecticut River Valley. We farm on two pieces of rented land in our Lyme-Old Lyme area. Our total acreage is 11, and we grow 4 acres of vegetables.
Baylee Drown started the farm, and her partner, Ryan Quinn, a teacher and handyman by training, joined the effort for the last two summers. Baylee and Quinn run the farm year round. For 6 months of the growing season they are joined by a dedicated crew; Brendan McGuire, Dan Foth, Jocelyn Craig and Gregory Szewczyk. Farm dogs, Maria and Luca, keep the place almost free of vermin.
We feed 89 families with our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We supply grocery stores and farmers markets with wholesome, local produce.
We are Northeast Organic Farming Association members, and have pledged to use practices that meet or exceed organic standards.
Our farm, although new to the area, is entrenched in the local community. We love to give tours, especially to school groups. We want our community to know their farmers, and where their food is grown.
Inside the Farm
How is your approach to farming different than other farms in the same category?
We focus on growing and business practices that enrich our soils, communities and lives. When we use the word "communities" we refer to both our human and ecological communities. We use ecologically based practices, to ensure our farm encourages biodiversity, meaning many animals, plants and microorganisms can call our farm home. We accomplish this with providing habitat and a clean environment. We provide habitat both in our soil and around the farm landscape, by practicing low tillage methods and keeping mature annual and perennial plants around year long.
We practice Holistic Management. This drives us towards managing our farm business in a way that helps us reach our greater life goals, while increasing the health of our farm's soil, and sequestering carbon in our soil. We believe that sustainable agriculture can help reverse the accumulation of carbon in our atmosphere, while providing vitally important plant based foods.
Our farm crew is a community. We live, work, cook, eat and play together. We are so lucky to have a stellar crew, devoted to the same farming ideology.
How does your different approach contribute to a long-term profitable growth strategy for your farm and other small farms like yours?
Holistic Management makes certain we see the big picture, and important details. Holistic Management gave us the tools to manage our farm business, ecosystem and collective lives sustainably. By combining Holistic Management, organic practices, and our community values, we think we have a recipe for success.
We use Holistic Management to identify how to develop our business over the years to meet our goals. We identify what is holding us back at a given time, and put additional resources into developing that weak area. Right now we are focusing on increasing our efficiency with labor and produce delivery. Last year we focused on marketing, and this past winter and spring we focused on increasing our ability to produce larger volumes of beautiful produce.
This strategy helps us continue growing into a truly sustainable business. Over the next 5 years we will grow our business to gross sales of $250,000 per year, doubling our CSA membership. In order to meet this volume, we must be able to deliver more produce per trip, more than our current delivery vehicle allows. We want to grow our farm business so we can pay ourselves a living wage, pay our workers more, improve staff housing and create a farm that is a local institution for our community.
The beauty of our food revolution is the cooperation between farms, consumers and all involved in re-building a community based food system. We are proud to support other food entrepreneurs in our community, and to have learned much from our farming mentors. We are building and working a model for a resilient future.
How would you specifically use a Mortgage Lifter Lift or Mini Lift?
We need to improve our capacity for delivering fresh produce, and we need a way to return yard waste to our farm, to enrich our land. To do this we need a high-capacity delivery vehicle (currently we take two cars to market, one is a 1994 wagon with a home-made box on top for veggies-see photo) and a dump trailer. Not the most exciting purchases, but much needed.
Surplus after we buy these two items will go into our farm down-payment fund, and help with student loan debt. We have an opportunity to buy one of the farms we rent, and would love to have a bigger down payment.
If we are selected as the reader’s choice, we will buy a trailer to move compost and leaves. Our staff will benefit greatly; hauling compost to cover 4 acres is a herculean task!
Please share why you are so passionate about your farm and/or farming in general.
I (Baylee) grew up on a dairy farm. I loved our cows, the hard work of farming life and even the poop. I was 4-H'er, FFA Chapter President and competitive dairy cattle judge. I loved many aspects of growing up livestock farming. However, I thought that conventional dairying was not financially sustainable for me, and pursued a degree in vet medicine. During my studies, I realized I was studying to be a veterinarian so I could afford to farm. While finishing my Animal Science BS, I took a philosophy class that made me reconsider my roll in animal agriculture, and develop animal and food ethics.
During a 5 year stint as a vegetarian, I managed a diversified, organic, educational farm in Vermont. I came to the place to work on the livestock program, but was vegetable farming for most of my summer hours. I caught the vegetable farming bug there. It was a beautiful experience, but I wanted desperately to prove that sustainable agriculture could be ethical, ecological and solvent. Starting my own business has provided me with the opportunity to do what I love, and build a business that reflects my values. Our farm shows that ethical agriculture can be financially sustainable.
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