Farms the Way We Love ‘Em – Small and Local


The Washington Post reports a bit of good news – small organic farms that are both environmentally and economically sustainable.  Whoa, that word is HOT.Pappas

The local farmer pictured here, Michael Pappas, farms only 2 and a half acres and they’re only 8 miles away from the middle of D.C., but he’s making a "nice living" from it, thank you very much, selling to restaurants, grocery stores and college dining halls. 

(The article helpfully reveals that he’s single, no kids.  And if he’d just smile I bet he’d be my type.  Maybe he needs to be interviewed.)

And here’s an interesting connection.  Garden writer Michael Pollan’s best-selling Omnivore’s Dilemma, which "calls into question the wisdom of industrial organics," is being credited with the new, more enlightened focus on local produce at Whole Foods.  Apparently their customers see the wisdom in Pollan’s argument: "What good is eating organic if it’s been trucked 3,000 gas-guzzling miles across the country?"  Whole Foods is even spending $10 million this year to promote local agriculture.  Guess the written word – in print, no less – hasn’t lost the power to enlighten.

Finally, the growth of these niche farms is seen as a product of the phenomenal growth of farmers markets across the country.  That’s where buyers for those restaurants, stores and college food services are meeting up with their new local suppliers.

So veggie gardeners, maybe you CAN quit that indoor job and make a living doing something you love.  On top of which, it has a very cool purpose. 

Photos: Top, by Melina Mara of the Washington Post. Bottom, seen at Takoma Park Maryland’s Farmers Market.


  1. I’ve had Mr. Pollan’s book on my wish list for a while now. I think it’s time that I should order it.
    I didn’t know that Industrial organics was an argument in the book, I was only familiar with his argument about our dependency on corn, but this new information makes the book even more appealing!

    Thanks for the info Susan!

  2. I’ve never forgotten an article I saw years ago about a woman who made her living on 1/3 of an acre–just growing exquisite salad greens for restaurants.

    The way that farming has progressed–or devolved–it now takes a giant dairy farm and huge amounts of capital to support a family. But vegetables? You can reap serious crops from a small backyard.

    Go interview the farmer, Susan, and report back. It’s so nice to see a suburbanite actually using his land!

  3. I’ve thought about selling crops from my backyard at the local farmer’s market, but the time hasn’t been right yet. I always thought maybe it would pay for itself, but now I see there is actually money to be made! Something to keep in mind…

  4. I’m curious to hear how many hours of work he puts into this to make it a success. From having atable for our magazine at two local urban farmer’s markets, I’ve seen how very hard it is for the vendors to make a living at selling produce. Don’t forget it is not just the growing – but also the selling (up at pre-dawn, setting up your tent and display, on your feet all day in whatever weather, dealing with rude customers, etc.) and then the marketing and cold-calling if you are trying to break into the local restaurants, etc.
    One farmer I talked to gets up at 3 am to drive down to DC to sell – 3 times a week. I can’t say I envy him. But if you love it, you’ll make the sacrifices.

  5. Whole Foods Market has begun hosting the Austin Farmers’ Market in the parking lot of its flagship store in downtown Austin.

    Sure WFM isn’t perfect–but it is responsive. Where’s the complaints about all those other grocery chains that did nothing about organic foods or sustainable agriculture in the years before Whole Foods?

    Why don’t we pick on Kellog’s or KFC for substituting trans-fat for soybean oil (sounds good on the surface)–soybean oil grown from Monsanto’s genetically-modified VISTIVE soybeans.

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