Balsam Gardens, a certified organic farm in Western North Carolina, is growing fast. In 2008, owners Steven Beltram and Becca Nestler started bringing extra produce from their family garden to the Jackson County farmers market. They used organic methods to grow summer vegetables on a 16th of an acre, and took pride in explaining their organic practices to customers at the market.
Last year they scaled up their operation and moved from Jackson County to Asheville where they now have 17 acres in production. They became a network grower for New Sprout Organics, which distributes certified organic produce from multiple Southeast farms to grocery stores. Balsam Gardens had to become certified organic by the USDA to join the program and now sells exclusively to New Sprout.
Beltram says becoming certified organic didn’t change their production methods, but it did change their marketing strategy.
“When you’re at a tailgate market you get to know your customers personally, at least at a small market like we were going to, they knew how we were doing things. When it’s on a grocery store shelf, that green sticker is really the only way to have an idea of how something was produced.”
Stay tuned to learn more about local farmers and how they decide if getting certified is right for them. Many farmers list their growing practices at ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at www.appalachiangrown.org