ASAP likes to share the stories of people who help us fulfill our mission. This month we talk with farmer Erica Fernbach, who co-owns Seven Oaks Farm with Karl Brandstaetter in Rutherford County. Seven Oaks Farm is part of ASAP’s Appalachian Farms Feeding Families program, which pairs farms with food relief sites and childcare centers in their communities and provides agencies with a budget for purchasing local food. Erica is pictured on the right with Cynthia Cooper of Chase Corner Ministries.
How has the pandemic affected Seven Oaks Farm?
We began laying the groundwork to start our farm right before the pandemic hit the U.S. 2021 is our first full growing season, so we don’t have pre-pandemic experience to compare to, but we have probably benefited from the increased awareness of/interest in buying from local farms brought on by the pandemic.
What are you delivering now through Appalachian Farms Feeding Families?
We’ve been delivering carrots, cabbage, zucchini and summer squash, green beans, cucumbers, and head lettuce in recent weeks. We are partnered with Chase Corner Ministries, which is run by the absolutely delightful Cynthia Cooper. She is very passionate about her work and always excited to provide local produce for her clients, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Has this program changed your connection with the community at all?
We are very grateful to ASAP for giving us the opportunity to sell our produce so close to home, to the people who often need it the most. The connections we’ve made through our participation have helped us immensely in finding our footing as a first-year farm, and also in feeling more rooted in our community.
We’ve also just started coordinating with a volunteer-run partnership effort that is working to expand donation capacity in Rutherford County. The group is spearheaded by Bob Young of Deer Valley Farm and the Rutherford County Food Council, and we’ve been communicating with Hannah Bundy and Lindy Abrams who do great work organizing harvests and deliveries. It has been awesome to be invited into this multi-organizational effort because checking in about each other’s harvest and delivery plans means that we can work together to maximize the number of residents in our community who receive fresh veggies every week!
Find out more about Appalachian Farms Feeding Families and how you can support farms and communities in Western North Carolina.