GLADE SPRING, Va. — Buying local just got creative for a Glade Spring farming couple.
Dylan and Denita House, who opened Creative Seeds Farm in 2009, will sell their popular lettuce mixes by subscription beginning this spring.
Members pay upfront to subscribe to a 12-week season, receiving a weekly box of enough lettuce — a hearty variety — to make five to six fresh salads with salad vegetables.
“The cost is less than $20 per week,” Dylan said. “All lettuce is prewashed and prebagged.”
The husband and wife team are participating in community-supported agriculture (CSA), a program that’s sprouting on farms throughout the country.
The program allows people to purchase seasonal produce directly from their local farmers. The farmer sells shares to the public and commits to growing food for the participating members.
According to Dylan, the system is beneficial for customers as well as growers.
“Customers are ensured a certain amount of fresh produce each week. And it’s also a good way to get to know your local farmer and learn about their growing practices,” he said.
“For the farmer, it’s like a shot in the arm. Farmers get upfront cash to help purchase seeds and other supplies.”
The couple is operating a modified version of community-supported agriculture, offering subscriptions for two growing seasons from April to June and September to November.
“Normally, farmers offer different crops for subscriptions, but we’ve narrowed it down to focusing on greens,” said the husband.
In return, the customers receive regular distributions of produce throughout the season.
Basically, the system allows the producer and consumer to share the risks of farming.
“It’s a shared risk, but the members also get a share of the bounty,” he said. “When we have a bounty of produce in season, subscribers will get extra in their boxes.
“The system will help me know what to plant, when to plant and how much to plant,” said the grower.
Purchasing standard memberships for $215 will provide customers with one pound of greens, including leaf lettuce, spinach, Asian green mix, mini-head lettuce and creasy greens. In addition, the boxes will include two bunches of seasonal vegetables, including radish, beets, carrots, kale, chard and cherry tomatoes.
A deluxe membership for $230 provides customers with an additional two sample bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil each month, provided by the Abingdon Olive Oil Co.
The deadline for subscribing to the spring harvest is March 1, and the deadline for the fall harvest is Aug. 1. Subscription boxes are picked up at the Glade Spring farm on West Glade Street.
After doubling his production this year, Dylan expects to see the operation continue to grow in the next few years.
“I have about two acres of land, but I’m only farming one-tenth of an acre. You can grow a lot of food in a small space. I’m trying to grow better — not necessarily bigger.
“We like to think of ourselves as being beyond organic farmers,” he said. “We grow produce the way nature intended it to be grown — without chemicals or pesticides.
“I like to think that by using intensive planting, minimal tilling, crop rotation and successive planting, Creative Seeds Farm grows some of the best-tasting lettuce in Southwest Virginia.”
The subscription system will offer the farmers an additional outlet for marketing their produce.
They will continue to operate a booth on Saturday mornings at the Glade Spring Farmers Market in the town square and sell bags of greens at two retail businesses, Blue Hills Market in Abingdon and Nana and Pappy’s Produce in Chilhowie.
The couple also has plans to become members of Certified Naturally Grown, a U.S.-based farm assurance program that was created as an alternative to the Natural Organic Program.
“My customers already know I grow all-natural with no pesticides, but it will be nice to have that recognition on packaging,” Dylan said.
“Buying local not only ensures you’re getting the freshest and healthiest produce, but it’s also contributing right back into your own community. What we earn will go back into this community as much as possible.”