On June 6, about 150 members of the
community-supported agriculture (CSA) organization will pick up their first boxes of the season, brimming with farm-fresh greens, scallions, herbs and other early-season produce.
But food is not the only thing that Fertile Grounds is growing. In its second season, Fertile Grounds has about double the members it did last year. And with a fresh $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the nearly 40-acre farm in rural Noxen in Wyoming County is expanding its line of "value-added" products such as pesto and vinaigrettes for sale at New York City farmers markets and local retailers.
Fertile Grounds, owned and operated by women farmers, employs about 14, some seasonal, says founder and project director Deb Shoval. With the grant, a new, full-time outreach coordinator is about to start, charged with running the one-acre, pick-your-own field and talking to groups about the benefits of CSAs and sustainable farming.
Shoval, a native of neighboring Luzerne County, apprenticed on an organic farm as a teenager, later earning a degree in sustainable agriculture and a master's in film directing before returning home to launch the farm and CSA. The goal, she says is not only to make high-quality, fresh food available locally, but "to create jobs in sustainable agriculture and to demonstrate that there are jobs to be created. This is a positive direction for the area to move into on a much larger scale."
"Sustainable and organic farming," she adds, "are ways to make a living in northeast Pennsylvania."
Source: Deb Shoval, Fertile Grounds
Writer: Elise Vide