Why did you begin farming?
I went looking for local food in our county at farmers’ markets and there was none, so I started a CSA on our farm with 10 members and over six years that morphed into a rent-a-row program where I now teach families in the community to grow their own food sustainably. They rent one row out of our garden area and grow their own crops. The chickens, beef and dairy came about because of the interest from our community and ourselves to have more than just vegetables that were ‘clean.’
What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?
Learning to grow in Florida, which is noted for lots of grass, bugs and sand.
What is your biggest current challenge?
The biggest challenge is to find ways to handle the bugs and grasses and predators in appropriate ways.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received about farming?
We visited an organic strawberry farm in the next county, and I was discouraged with how perfect it looked compared to my vegetables. He told me to take a closer look … the first 18 rows had bugs devouring the strawberries that he hadn’t seen before. He told me that no one has all the answers, and that was the best advice I’ve gotten.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
I really enjoy sharing knowledge. People are ready to make the change in their life to a more sustainable way to eat. We started our county’s food networking with OC Grown (Osceola County Grown) and now have a market at our farm on Saturdays with all the area farmers who are also getting committed to grow more sustainably. We’ve had farm to fork dinners and events held on our farm every year since 2010, with growing numbers each year.
What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming?
It is the only way to feed a sick nation. I see in our county that more and more people are becoming sustainable gardeners and farmers — it will be the answer to recovering our lands and pastures.
What is your favorite season? Why?
My favorite season is probably fall. I look forward to cooler weather, the grass in the garden is not so prolific and the bugs are scarce … plus the cooler crop vegetables can be overwintered, and we can enjoy them for longer.
Diamond P Farm
St. Cloud, Florida
Farmer: Nancy Pratt
Farm size: 40 acres
Year established: 1999
Number of years farming? 6
Years reading Acres U.S.A.? 1
Products: Vegetables, grass-fed beef, free range chickens, raw milk
Contact: www.osceolacsa.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you enjoy most about living on the land?
When we sit down to a dinner with our own beef or chicken, our own prepared vegetables, our own milk and butter, our neighbor’s cheese, our farmer’s honey and our farmer’s peaches for dessert it feels and tastes like perfection.
What is the funniest thing that has happened on your farm?
Well, it wasn’t funny at the time! We had cows get out of the pasture and head straight to our rent-a-row garden where one of our growers had corn almost ready to eat. That was their first choice of the buffet!
This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.