Local Producer Profile: Small Family Farm
“In many ways, I don’t feel like I chose to be a farmer, it chose me.”
From Viroqua, take a quick 20-minute drive down County Road Y to Avalanche, head north on County Road S, turn east up Smart Hollow Road, and you will get to what seems like the top of the earth on Salem Ridge Road. There you will find a wonderful family that is committed to local and organic agriculture and growing the local food community. Adam and Jillian Varney and their three children, ages one, four, and seven, have a passion to farm. Their farm is Small Family Farm.
They named their farm Small Family Farm because, as Jillian says, “We wanted to bring life back to what a small family farm could and should be – a place that grows real food for people, a farm that people can visit and a farm where children are safe to run, eat, grow and learn.”
Jillian knew she wanted to farm while growing up and spent several years working as a farm hand on midwestern organic vegetable and fruit farms. Her time at Angelic Organics outside of Rockford, Illinois was very formative in her agricultural journey. “There, I fell in love with the concept of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) after seeing the variety of produce grown, how a CSA farm educates and engages eaters through their newsletters and farm events and how CSA farms breathe life into the idea that one should know their farmer, where their produce was coming from and how it is grown. The transparency of CSA farming was so simple and genius, I knew I had found my true path. In many ways, I don’t feel like I chose to be a farmer, it chose me.”Their farm is certified organic and focuses on producing 40 different types of vegetables and fruits on 11.5acres of farmland primarily for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. CSA is a way that eaters can connect directly with their farmer by purchasing a farm share in the spring. In return, farm members get a box of seasonal produce and recipes either every week or every other week throughout the growing season. CSA is a fantastic way to deliver more money directly to farmers and more nutritious local organic fruits and vegetables to community members.
Small Family Farm has a very active community members come out to the farm and work a 3.5 hour shift each week in exchange for a CSA share. The worker shares help weed, harvest, wash and pack produce. About 95% of their vegetables they produce go to their CSA members and the remainder is sold at the Dane County Farmer Market, restaurants and food co-ops like the VFC.
Small Family Farm is also unique in how they make extra effort to reduce their carbon footprint as much as possible. They heat their greenhouse each spring with a wood burning stove using saw mill waste from a neighbor. They have a large in ground root cellar that serves as their produce refrigerator. By having that system in the ground, which is much cooler, they drastically reduce energy use for cooling their veggies. They have also taken the leap and installed a solar energy system on their barn. Their 7.5 CSA worker share program in which kW system produces 70% of the energy needed to power the farm.
“When customers purchase Small Family Farm produce, they are supporting organic agriculture, the endangered small family farm and our local food economy,” shares Jillian. Next time you purchase Small Family Farm strawberries, carrots or other produce, know that you are supporting the Varney Family and their workers who are going the extra mile to build and strengthen our local agricultural community!