Courtney Farms also sells to grocery stores and distributors such as Grasshoppers, a Louisville-based CSA that gets its meats, dairy products, and produce from more than 60 family farms in Kentucky and southern Indiana.

“They complement each other,” Mary said of sales to both grocery and distributors. “Whereas a CSA member will appreciate the beauty in a two-legged carrot, a grocery store wouldn’t allow it.”

Mary said the recognition of the Kentucky Proud logo and the association with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s marketing program has made a big impact on her CSA business.

“To me, it’s real simple,” Mary said. “The Kentucky Proud logo is a brand for all of us Kentucky farmers. It’s an easily recognizable brand for the consumer. They know if they choose that brand, they’re supporting a local farmer.”

Courtney Farms proudly displays the logo on its CSA boxes. “When the boxes leave, we have our [Courtney Farms] sticker and the Kentucky Proud sticker on all of them,” Mary said.

Children of Kentucky farm families

Mary and Shane both grew up on tobacco and beef cattle farms in Kentucky, Mary in Springfield and Shane in Dry Ridge. Mary’s father is still a full-time farmer in Washington County.

During the summer of 2001, while attending college at the University of Kentucky, Mary was an intern at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. She worked with dairy, goats, and beef, and was also involved in preliminary meetings for the marketing program that later became Kentucky Proud. Those meetings taught Mary something “that never left my mind,” she said — that local food was the wave of the future.

After Shane and Mary graduated from UK and got married, they settled in Shelby County in 2003. Shane taught agriculture at Shelby County High School, and Mary worked as a lender for Farm Credit Services.

“Both of our childhoods were rich in farming,” Mary wrote on the farm’s website, “yet as adults we found ourselves working very long hours indoors and not getting to enjoy a passion we shared.”

The Courtneys took the first step in that direction by starting a lawn care business called Lawns of Perfection, which they still operate today. That got them back outdoors and gave them the confidence to return to their roots in 2006, when they purchased their farm.

“Following in the footsteps of our parents, we are traditional tobacco farmers,” Mary wrote. “Needing to diversify, and the strong desire to raise our two children on the farm, we have turned to answer a community need: nutritious, local food — delivered.”

When Mary tends to the farm’s 20 acres of vegetables, she takes her children, 3-year-old Lucas and 1-year-old Elly, with her.

“I’ll never forget, one day last year, I needed 60 more Brussels sprouts,” Mary said. “All our farm workers were gone, it was just me and the kids, so all three of us went out to the field together. I had her (Elly) in a car seat, and I tucked her in under the Brussels sprouts as I went down the row picking, with okra on the other side helping shade her.”

Mary is proud that her kids aren’t like many of their young peers, some of whom are separated two and three generations from farming.

“They do everything along with us,” Mary said. “They’ll grow up appreciating everything they eat.”