On a hilltop in southeastern Ohio, Jeff and Shelley Mott are worlds away from their former home in southern California. Looking to escape the traffic, congestion and headaches of city life, they bought a 111-acre farm near Salesville in 2006 and turned to raising organic potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, squash and berries. More than 30 families currently have shares in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and the Motts also sell their produce at local farmers’ markets.
In a region not known for organic farming or CSAs, the farm has become a big hit. It’s even begun to attract the interest of gourmet restaurants in Columbus, which regularly place orders for berries and heirloom tomatoes. “In supermarkets, vegetables are large, uniform and tasteless,” says Jeff. “Our niche is to sell unique, and unique tasting, vegetables.”
The Motts have three children: Joel, Jeremiah, and baby Simeon, who was born in September 2007. The older children, who are homeschooled, help around the farm, planting, pulling weeds, harvesting and milking the cow. Joel, 11, likes playing basketball on their hoop in the barn by the house, and Jeremiah, 8, especially enjoys picking vegetables.
“It seems like they’ve always been happy since we’ve come here,” says Jeff. “They’re a part of it. They have a sense of self-esteem and confidence in what they do.” Jeff, who meticulously records details about seedlings and harvests in a worn green notebook, does much of the farm’s fieldwork. Shelley focuses on keeping their business log, writing the CSA’s newsletter, preparing crates for CSA members and managing the household.
“The most significant thing for me was the lifestyle change, with both of us being able to work at home,” says Shelley. “I don’t think we’d ever want to leave the farm.” Jeff says he can think of nothing that would make him happier than working on their farm.
“It’s really satisfying,” he says. “It’s hard work, but it’s OK. There’s so much reward.”
By Vivian Wagner, a writer in New Concord, Ohio
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