Courtney Farms is in the second year of diversifying away from a dependence on tobacco income and into vegetable production through a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

“We started out tobacco farmers and have quite a bit of tobacco still,” said Mary Courtney, who owns the 94-acre Kentucky Proud farm near Bagdad in Shelby County with her husband, Shane. “I don’t know how long we’ll stay tobacco farmers because we don’t want to be at the mercy of other people with the uncertainty of the industry right now.

“We wanted to diversify,” she added. “That’s the reason we went into vegetable production.”

Courtney Farm’ CSA has doubled in size over the past year, from 48 members last summer to 96 now. Although the farm is located in northeast Shelby County, most of its membership is in neighboring Jefferson County to the west.

With the CSA booming, the Courtneys thought selling their excess vegetables at a farmers’ market would be a perfect fit. But last summer, with Shane busy tending to the family’s 65-acre tobacco patch, Mary discovered that being a farmers’ market vendor isn’t for her.

Mary started last summer selling at some farmers’ markets in Louisville, but it proved very labor intensive with lots of packing and unpacking. She had to load and unload vegetables, cash registers, table cloths, and signage, as well as tending to her two young kids, one of whom wasn’t even crawling.