Thoughts on Family Farm Finances and the Role of CSA


At Mile Creek Farm we explain that we grow our produce sustainably, but is the farm financially sustainable? One of our winter jobs is running the farm’s financial reports from income to expenses. We enter in all of our receipts from the year and categorize expenses. We review half a year’s worth of harvest data to better understand the farm’s output crop by crop. It takes a lot of money to grow a lot of food and profit margins are super slim. We grow a little more food and bring in a little more money each year, and are continuously working towards a goal of long term farm stability.

Efficiency is crucial to a farm’s strong financial footing, therefore we are constantly reinvesting in the farm to increase efficiency. The past few years we’ve focused on efficiencies in the field and have purchased a newer tractor, pallet bins, and various tractor implements.

2017 came with a tractor upgrade- newer and more horsepower! First Day on the Farm!
In 2017 we added a potato digger to our fleet of implements and sweet potato and potato harvest efficiency has improved greatly
In 2018 we acquired a dozen large macro-bins for harvesting larger quantities of vegetables. These worked great for our onion, winter squash, sweet potato and rutabaga harvests.

While we’ve made steady improvements to our field operations over the years,  we’ve run a pretty bootleg and inexpensive packing shed (where the vegetables come in after harvest to be washed and stored). Years ago we got tables and a stainless steel sink from a school auction, we’ve added concrete floors to the barn in several installations section by section (whatever we could pay for at the time), we’ve built coolers from scratch and walls with recycled roofing material.

Our functional but not super efficient wash area

This year we are making huge improvements to the pack shed. We are getting a conveyer rinse line that has the ability to serve many functions from to spraying carrots with a high pressure spray to washing lettuce with a low pressure spray.  We are also finally getting the entire pack barn concreted. This winter brings the third and final concrete installment. The entire barn is now a functional space and we can design a wash area exactly how we want to with efficiency in mind and no space limitations getting in our way.  Last but not least we are adding a 53 foot refrigerated trailer to our cold storage. Our small 8 x 8 and 6 x 10 coolers have been filled to brim the past 2 years and have limited how much we can grow, especially in relation to fall vegetables and winter storage crops like cabbage, carrots, and other roots.  The trailer has been purchased and will be delivered this week!

So what does all this have to do with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)? Everything! We can’t invest in the farm without CSA member support. CSA members typically commit to buying from the farm before the season starts and their support is guaranteed for the entire season so we know we can count on it and plan accordingly. Our early bird CSA membership campaign is especially important to the large winter purchases and farm infrastructure improvements I mentioned above. Without CSA funds coming into the farm we can’t make these necessary upgrades.

Our CSA subscriptions are about 60% of the farm’s total income, so in other words, a big deal! This year we had the most early bird CSA sign ups ever! Thanks to everyone who has committed to our farm again or who is giving us a try for the first time! The early bird campaign was wonderful, but we aren’t close to full so we’ve got to keep those memberships rolling in! Hopefully a CSA membership works for you this year! And if you need more information about CSAs, I encourage you to check out the Five Rivers MetroPark CSA Fair, this Friday Feb. 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 at 2nd Street Market! We’ll be there talking about our CSA program, serving delicious veggie-centric snacks, and handing out some sweet potato samples!  More info here Hope you can make it! And if you can’t and have questions about our CSA, send me an email at!


Why We Do What We Do



What we do is simple and easy to explain in just three words. We grow vegetables! Simple can mean inconsequential and trivial. But growing vegetables, and particularly the way we do it, couldn’t be more essential and timely. We find ourselves as a world grappling with climate change and as a nation struggling with an obesity epidemic. Organic farming is gentle on the earth. Our 30 acre farm is teaming with microbes, wildlife, and healthy soil. The fact that our vegetables stay in state (mostly traveling less than 30 miles away) produces a food system that significantly reduces its carbon footprint. Furthermore, a vegetarian diet can reduce one’s carbon footprint by half! Imagine if you increased your veggie intake and decreased your meat intake just a little bit! As if the health of our environment weren’t incentive enough, these vegetables are wonderful for our own health too, providing us with essential nutrients and vitamins!


Celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King this weekend had me thinking of his call to action: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?” So what is Mile Creek Farm doing for others? Cultivating health!! The way we see it, organic farming is not just our answer to Martin Luther King’s “persistent and urgent question”, it is an answer to a “persistent and urgent” problem!


Reflections on the 2018 CSA Season

After finishing up our 10th year (!!!!) offering a CSA, we are pleased to announce that our 2019 CSA Season enrollment is open! For info about our program (which is, in a nut shell, food from our farm delivered to you) click here

Here’s what folks had to say about 2018:

  • “The produce quality is stunning, the selections are beautiful and varied, and pickup has been easy and reliable.”
  • “I think your CSA is wonderful! I absolutely LOVE the blog and the recipes you’ve shared.”
  • “Great quality and super delicious veggies. Ben and Emily pour their hearts into this CSA and it shows!!!!”
  • “Best experience ever. . .can’t wait for another year”

Some of the highlights for me were our organic sweet corn crop (soooo sweet with the bonus of being worm free!), trialing the best cucumber variety I’ve ever tasted (a sweet little yellow cucumber that goes by the name Salt and Pepper), finally growing enough edamame to have 2 weeks worth for our members,  introducing the “swap box” where members could swap out an item from their box for something else, a stellar sweet potato and potato crop- both taste and yield wise, and beating our CSA membership enrollment goal!

Here are 20 of the boxes that the farm produced in 2018:

For 2019 we are looking forward to building on our successes and correcting our mistakes. We are still waiting for the year that every single seed we start makes it to the harvest stage! (spoiler alert – that’s probably never going to happen) Each season brings its own set of challenges, but what you can count on for sure is a varied assortment of the most nutritious food possible! And it doesn’t hurt that our veggies taste great too!

Ready to sign up! Do so HERE

-Oh and Save 5% if you sign up by January 31 (pay in full or one of 3 installments required for discount)

CSA Season Extension Week 3


This Week’s Harvest

Kossak Kohlrabi


Butternut Squash

January King Cabbage

Red Cabbage

Sweet Potatoes



Purple Daikon Radish

Purple Top Turnips


Rainbow Carrots

Hakurei Salad Turnips

Apple Shares

Golden Delicious and Winesap

Farm News

In the last blog I wrote about the ways we learn from other farmers- farm visits, conferences, etc. We like to give as well as receive and have lead several workshops over the years at Ohio’s largest sustainable farming conference. This year is no different and we’ll each present at OEFFA’s 40th Annual Conference, here in Dayton Feb 15-16. I’ll be presenting with The Young Farmers Coalition on my experience getting the the farm GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified, a certification that farms earn if they are food safety compliant. The workshop will also discuss how we’ve built up our packing shed over the years with budget, increased efficiency, and food safety in mind as well as improvements we are still looking to make.


Ben will be presenting with our fertilizer supplier, Sustane. We ran a trail this past season with compost tea from Sustane on one of our summer squash plantings.  Some beds did not receive any compost tea, some got a weekly dose of regular compost tea, and some got a weekly dose of enriched compost tea. We weighed the yields off these beds nearly daily for nearly a month. Ben and Brain will be discussing the results of the study and our experience with using compost tea as a fertilizer for the first time.  For those of you interested, the study results can be found here: SustaneCompostTeaResearchMileCreek2018 (1)

The nutrients are brewed over night


Using the forklift, the compost tea is brought out to the field and hooked up to the fertigation system. This allows the tea to be sucked up through the irrigation, getting applied directly to the plants roots
Checking on the squash plant’s growth
A single day’s harvest

By the way, picking all that summer squash was one of the many tiring things we did this season. We are looking forward to resting up in January and doing it all over again next year! Thanks for your support this season!


Vegan Potato, Bean, Kale Soup 

Roasted Veggie Chips (beets, potatoes, daikon radish, kohlrabi, turnips, sweet potatoes, and any other roots work great)

Turnip and Sweet Potato Gratin

Roasted Beets, Carrots and Turnips

Winter Veggie Slaw




12/4/18 Extended Season Week 2

This Week’s HarvestIMG_4510

Purple top turnips

Purple and white potatoes

Red cabbage

Green cabbage



Purple daikon radish


Sweet potatoes

Butternut squash


Apple Share

Gold Rush and Fuji

Farm News

Winter is the season of data entry, financial and crop planning, maintenance and deep cleaning, and my favorite, learning!

Last week Ben and a fellow farmer took a trip to the upper midwest to visit a couple organic farms. The purpose of the trip was to see other operations and gather information on growing, marketing, and the general state of organics in that area. They visited PrairiErth Farm in central Illinois and Driftless Organics in Wisconsin. There is a thriving community of organic farms in that region and it was generous of these 2 farms to open their doors. Talking with fellow farmers is a great way to learn and Ben came back from his trip with several takeaways.

In PrairiErth’s packing house checking out a root washer
Driftless Organics fleet of cultivating tractors

We also glean knowledge by attending conferences. Right after our CSA delivery this week, Ben heads to Michigan for the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market two day Expo. Meanwhile, I just got back from a great Scaling Up Intensive with pioneer organic farmer, Linda Halley. She brought to the workshop 29 years experience, most of which came on 2 of the most influential midwestern organic farms, so the cost of the conference more than paid for itself even though family obligations had me miss a day.

It’s good to pack these learning opportunities in this time of year when we have the time but while the growing season is still fresh in our minds. We are physically and mentally tired from the year— our bodies a bit achy and the disappointments of the season still raw— but being in the company of other farmers gives us the inspiration and desire to do it all over again next year! Conferences and meetings are the perfect boost to end the growing season on and the perfect starting block to begin the winter planning season!


Radish and cabbage stir fry

Root vegetable gratin

Spinach and butternut squash lasagna

Extended CSA Season- Week 1

This Week’s Harvest



Purple Daikon Radishes

Hakurei Salad Turnips

Brussels Sprouts


Butternut Squash


Sweet Potatoes

Kennebec Potatoes



Apple Shares

Downing Land and Gold Rush

Farm News

Welcome to the extended season! This is the season for roasted veggies, comfort casseroles, and warm bowls of soup. Not to mention Thanksgiving of course!

This year the cold snuck up on us fast and we had to harvest everyday to get our remaining cold sensitive crops out of the ground before deep freezes and ice storms! One day it was beets in the morning and turnips in the afternoon, the next day was carrots and rutabaga, and so on and so forth. We even had to send some of our produce off farm because we ran out of cooler space!

Despite the early cold snap, extended season boxes will be full of long lasting storage crops and a few fresh goodies from our hoop houses.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Much of this field needed to be harvested and put in storage
Ben brings in a round of freshly harvested veggies
This pallet of cabbage had to move off site
No more vegetables left, just icy fields of winter rye


Winter Root Puree 1

Winter Root Puree 2

Lemon Roasted Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts (instead of fingerlings, cut the Kennebecs into thick wedge slices)

Sweet Potato Pie

Butternut Squash and Sage Biscuits


11/5/18 CSA Week 24

This Week’s HarvestIMG_4263


Arugula or Radicchio

Sweet Potatoes

Butternut Squash



Red Cabbage

Braising Greens or Mustard Greens

Beauty Heart Radish

Brussels Sprouts

Apple Share

Gold Rush (tart, yellow), Ida Red (mellow flavor), Downing Land (sweet, red and pink, smaller)

Farm News

IMG_4165This week marks the end of our regular CSA season. We hope you enjoyed this culinary adventure of seasonal CSA eating! Our hope is that you discovered and enjoyed new vegetables,  expanded your skills in the kitchen, feed yourself and loved ones some delicious and nutritious meals, tasted some of the best vegetables you’ve ever had, and maybe even had a chance to put some vegetables up for the winter.

This season marks our 10th year offering a CSA! We started the CSA component of the farm in 2008 with 30 members and promised them vegetables for 20 weeks. We struggled through that first year and I remember at the time wishing we had only taken 20 members and promised 15 weeks of produce. Over the years we’ve learned, invested in equipment and infrastructure, and tweaked our systems. Now with 9 seasons under our belts, we have 250 members and delivered on our promise of 24 weeks of produce. Additionally, we are able to offer our extended season for the 3 straight year!IMG_2990

Even has we have improved the farm over the years, I feel far from a seasoned farmer. We have struggles every year and they always seem to be different! A new pest or disease shows up or a variety that did wonderfully for us in the past is suddenly the worst. And the weather is becoming increasing difficult for us to navigate and we feel the effects of climate change in a very real way.  Between Sept 1st and Nov 1st we got 11 inches of rain in just 3 rain events at 2 inches, 5 inches and 4 inches. This means that this fall our soil has either been too dry or too wet!  It also means disease spread like we’ve never seen most notably effecting our fall carrots, beets, chard and broccoli. Additionally, in the spring the time frame of optimal temperature for spring crops to mature seems to be shrinking into an ever narrowing window. Likewise, the fall window is shrinking resulting in disappointing broccoli and cauliflower yields. The uncertainly that the weather brings and possibility of crop failures makes the CSA partnership between farmer and consumer all the more essential.


We appreciate your season long support and hope the rewards far out weighed the risks! Some of the highlights of the year for me were the multiple successful sweet corn plantings, growing Salt and Pepper cucumbers, a most delicious and new-to-us variety of cucumber, the variety and yields of the winter squash planting, planting every single planned planting (that’s 25 weeks worth of weekly greenhouse seeding that made it into the ground!), and a successful 4 ton sweet potato harvest!

We hope that you believe from garlic to cabbage to potatoes our produce tastes great! We hope you discovered you actually like something you previously thought inedible. We hope you increased your vegetable intake in a way that was easy and enjoyable. And we certainly hope to have you back, if not for the extended season, for next year!

Thank you!

Your Farmers, Emily and Ben



Roasted Beet and Carrot Risotto

Butternut Soup with Apple

Brussel Sprout Hash with Caramelized Shallots