Friday, June 17, 2016

"Farmer Friday" - Fuller Farm

Kathy looks at her mustard plants, which
have recently flowered due to the high temperatures
It's "Farmer Friday" and intern Amanda has another farmer profile to share...

Tucked away on a side road in Canton New York is a small-scale, but fully functional vegetable farm owned by Kathy and Tim Fuller. From the road, you can only see a partial view of the farm as tall deciduous trees hide it. Once in the driveway, however, you get a glimpse of the 59 acres. Five of which are cultivated, divided into three sections: an open field for the summer planting, a 30 x 96 high tunnel and a 30 x 78 high tunnel. The two greenhouses are used for three and a half seasons out of the year. The couple takes December and January off, although Kathy said she is always itching to get back into the gardens: “Planting is like a disease!”

Kathy and Tim are trying a new method of growing
this year with their suspended cucumber plants.
Although Fuller Farm is not certified as organic because of expensive  costs of doing so, Kathy and Tim use organic practices. They do not use pesticides, and keep their fertilizer use below 20 lbs. per year. A beekeeper has 32 hives on the edge of their property, which aids in pollination. Kathy believes sustainability is “being able to operate in a way that keeps [the farm] operating,” a point many farmers agree. Environmentally, they recycle as much as possible, but they do not have enough labor to go without plastic and just weed using manual effort. Kathy reminded me how sustainability focuses on the process of farming and how small-scale decisions impact the wider implications of agriculture on both the environment in addition to the economy.

Fuller Farms initially started like many farms do, a family garden. Three and a half years ago, Tim had an aneurism, which forced him to retire. Kathy came home from teaching at Heuvelton Central School District one day to find Tim had plowed a large strip of land for vegetables. The first year their harvest was abundant enough to share their overflow with community members. Kathy and Tim made the economic decision the second year to sell their produce to North Country Grown Cooperative. As part of their operation, the Co-Op partners with local universities who purchase produce for their dining halls; however, the lack of students in the summer months left families like the Fullers without any income. As a result, Tim and Kathy expanded their business to the Potsdam Farmers Market on Saturdays. The third year, the couple decided to open their gardens filled with tomatoes, squash, kale, lettuce, mustard, peas, onions, beets, brussel sprouts, eggplants and many other vegetables for CSA shares. At first, the program had only 10 recipients, but now has grown to 15-20 with the help of GardenShare’s Bonus Bucks program.

One thing GardenShare strives to promote is the SNAP Double Up program. Kathy claimed she is seeing new faces at the Potsdam Market as a result of the program. One new customer, a middle aged mom, was impressed how she could receive $10 worth of produce by only spending $5. As a result, she buys her produce specifically from the market now, a change from which Kathy and Tim personally gain in return.

Kathy is a full supporter of GardenShare’s mission. She said, “Working with [farmers] markets is wonderful. I don’t know where we would be without them [GardenShare]”. Last autumn, GardenShare helped Kathy receive a grant for Heuvelton Central School to implement a community garden. She wishes to educate the next generation about the influential effects of small-scale farming. Many people think having fresh produce is a complicated, time-consuming process. Kathy stressed the solution to hunger in the North Country is to “get people to grow more food…it’s as simple as growing a tomato or two on your porch.”

Thank you Fuller Farms for an amiable visit!

Behind the farmhouse are plowed strips of land waiting to be planted.
Kathy said this year they are running short on time and labor to get everything accomplished.

The front third of the 30x96 tunnel yields lettuce and tomatoes.
The back portion was damaged during a heavy snowstorm and was recently repaired.

The smaller 30x78 tunnel is a product of a grant received by Kathy and Tim. 
Eventually, this tunnel will have raised beds.