What is in this article?:
• John Vollmer, along with his wife , Betty and son Russ, operate Vollmer Farm in Bunn, N.C.
• Though he has been in agriculture all his adult life, John Vollmer’s venture into organic farming is an ongoing 30-plus year process.
BUNN, N.C., farmer John Vollmer discusses his experiences with organic farming.
Grows own vegetable transplants
All his vegetable transplants are grown in one of two 7,000 square foot greenhouses. Growing tobacco is not much different from growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and other plants in the same family.
He also sells a significant amount of his vegetable and fruit crop via a Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA program. He started with 75 families and expanded to 300 last year, but found quickly that 300 was beyond his ability to service adequately.
In 2012, Vollmer Farm will provide farm produce to 250 families in close proximity to Bunn, N.C.
The CSA concept started in Japan in the mid 1980s. In the U.S., the concept has grown to 3,000-4,000 farms. There are also hybrid groups, like Produce Box in Raleigh that have over 4,000 members. Vollmer sells excess from his CSA farm to Produce Box and to other farms that operate CSA‘s .
Customers sign up in the winter and spring and pay in advance. He uses the cash flow from the sign-ups to pay labor and other costs when he doesn’t have cash flow from his other crops.
Now in their sixth year, Vollmer says he has always been able to deliver the crops customers sign up for long before the crop is planted.
For 20 weeks, families can buy a big box or a small box. What’s in the box is what’s in the CSA garden.
A small box costs $425, and the value of what is in the box ranges from $21-$25 per week, based on retail prices. The cost is comparable to what a person could buy the same amount of food for in a grocery store — maybe slightly less — but it’s the quality and freshness that his customers want and are willing to pay for, Vollmer says.
“We start in the first weeks with strawberries, asparagus, carrots and other crops that mature early in the spring. It takes a lot of planning to know what crops come off and what time, so that there is a constant change in food items in the box,” he adds.
Boxes of food are delivered to six sites each Tuesday and six on Wednesday of each week and member families come to a location that is closest to them to pick up their food.
Each box will have 5-7 items, and the higher the value of the crops, the less the weight of the box.
Amazingly, the Vollmer’s grow enough food to supply 250 families on five acres of land. Some of the land is double- and triple-cropped and some has a combination of crimson clover and oats as a cover crop. Weeds don’t have much of a chance to compete in the cover system we use, Vollmer says.