Unlike many traditional farmers who grew up on a family farm, most of the Lomax farmers are new to farming, though some have experience with home gardening or working in the landscape industry. A few have limited family ties to a farm, Pless said.

Pless spends a great deal of time on the farm, patiently answering questions. He even helped the farmers build a sturdy high-tunnel for growing early spring tomatoes. “I try not to be impatient at all because for some of them, it takes more than one time to hear something,” he said.

These new farmers face many challenges, especially learning to grow for local farmers’ markets. They have to determine when to plant, how much to plant, how much will sell in a week and how much reasonably can be harvested. Determining what to grow and what will sell at a market is also a challenge. Pless encourages the farmers to ask market goers what they want.

Several farmers who produced for community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs had to learn to plan their production so they had something for shareholders’ boxes every week. CSA is a marketing strategy where shareholders pay a farmer in advance to receive regular deliveries of fresh farm products.

Weed management is another challenge. As a certified organic operation, Lomax restricts the use of chemical herbicides or pesticides to those approved for organic use. So Pless encourages growers to get ahead of the problem after rain and before weeds take over their fields.