CUMMING, Ga. — Lynn Pugh and her husband, Chuck Pugh, bought their 17-acre farm as a place where the family could grow sustainable foods and be more self-sufficient.
Now, the local community shares in their harvest.
Lynn Pugh, a former educator in Forsyth County, runs Cane Creek Farm. Since 2005, the farm has been part of a movement in which consumers buy their produce directly from the farmers who grow them.
It’s called Community Supported Agriculture.
The idea is that the consumer buys a “share” in the farm. They prepay at the beginning of the growing season for their weekly produce. The funds help Pugh buy seeds, fertilizer and plant her crops. The CSA will run about $33 a week, or $400 for the 12-week season in the summer and fall. The spring and winter seasons are six-weeks long. Those interested must sign up for the entire season.
When Pugh has a good harvest, the consumer reaps the rewards.
“People learn to eat in season, and learn to eat fresh,” Pugh said. “It’s a lot fresher than the store.”
But if bad weather or pests interfere, the consumer’s share can suffer.
“You take the risk with the farmer,” said Pugh. “If the farmer doesn’t have something, you don’t get it.”
A spicy salad mix and a spring salad mix were being included in the bins for the week the Forsyth Herald visited the farm, located at 5110 Jekyll Road in Cumming.
Also included in the week’s harvest were collards, baby Romaine, big bunches of radishes, green onions, eggs and dried mint tea.
“We try to have eight to 10 items,” said Pugh. “Early in the spring, it’s more difficult to have that many, but as we get into it, we’ll have a lot more.”
CSA customers can’t order what they like. The farmer gives them what is fresh that week.
Today, there are 4,000 registered CSAs in the United States, more than triple the amount from five years ago, according to Local Harvest, a national farmer’s directory. And that number doesn’t reflect the full picture. Local Harvest estimates the total number could be closer to 6,000.
Crops at Cane Creek are grown in beds on a four-acre dedicated portion of the farm.
Some of the things growing include spinach, chard, broccolini, mustard and kale.
Pugh uses crop rotation, a method of growing that decreases soil erosion and increases fertility.
She also adheres to naturally growing the produce without chemicals.
Cane Creek is not a certified organic farm, but it’s known as a certified naturally grown, which uses the same standards as organic, but doesn’t involve the government, Pugh said. It’s a process in which farmers inspect other farmers and hold each other accountable.
Last winter, hoop houses were added to help grow vegetables during the winter season.
The winter season can put a lot of pressure on Pugh.
“It’s a commitment for people to buy, but it’s also a commitment for me to have something when they come here,” Pugh said.
Pugh has a spring, summer, fall and winter season that stretches from April to December.
She now has about 60 people signed up for the summer harvest. In the spring and winter, she will only take on 30 commitments.
She’s currently taking people interested in the summer season, but she will not accept applications once the season starts.
Pick-ups can be made at the farm on Wednesdays. In the summer, there are drop-off sites including Whole Foods Market in Johns Creek, the North Georgia Autism Center off Dahlonega Highway, an Alpharetta-area pickup near North Point Mall and Nutrition Depot off Market Place Boulevard.
Pugh, who teaches courses at the farm, also takes in lots of volunteers who are trying to learn about farming. She has one employee and a full-time intern, who help her out, along with her mother and mother-in-law.
Mike Milligan is one who has been coming Cane Creek to figure out if he wants to become a farmer.
Milligan, 41, dropped out of corporate life, where he worked for more than 20 years as an executive in the food and restaurant industry.
“I’m learning a lot of stuff to figure out if I can hack it before I go out and spend a lot of money buying a farm,” Milligan said.
Pugh said she’s pleased to help.
“Mostly, what they are here for is my practical knowledge,” Pugh said.
Extra food is often donated to local food pantries or sold through Cumming Harvest at www.cumming.locallygrown.net.