Spiral Path Farm Reaches Out to the Community
The Brownback family at Spiral Path Farm
On the 255-acre Spiral Path Farm in Perry County, the Brownback family has been dedicated to organic farming and community service for more than two decades. “My parents started the farm in 1977, we were certified organic in ’91, and the CSA started in ’94,” says Lucas Brownback, 30. “They were definitely ahead of the game on the organic trend.”
The Brownbacks first learned about the growing trend of community supported agriculture (CSA) in the early 1990s. The elder Brownbacks knew the model would be ideal for their rural farm, and they began planting acres of vegetables and accepting members right away.
“My parents started out as pig farmers, but my dad is a real animal lover,” Brownback says. “He didn’t want to look at the pigs as just a livelihood. Vegetables were a better fit, but where we live is really rural, so a traditional farm store wouldn’t work. The only way to really get out to the customers was this CSA model. If you’re a small farm starting off, the support of CSA members basically translates to instant sustainable success.” In a CSA model, members make a financial commitment in the late winter or early spring, and then receive a weekly share of freshly grown, in-season produce.
“We started with about 15 members,” Brownback says. “Last year, we had about 2,000. Over the year, we’ve had about a 50 percent retention rate. I’d like to think that’s because of the quality of our produce. People are seeing how much they can get for their buck; how large a share they’re getting each week. Once they’ve had that quality, it’s hard to go back.”
Brownback says much of that quality comes from Spiral Path Farm’s organic growing practices and their carefully cared-for soil. “I credit my mom and dad, who have been adamantly adding to the soil for 40 years,” Brownback says. “Our mission was to improve the land, and from that we’ve gotten really good tasting food. Because of the way we take care of the soil, it’s very nutrient-dense. We’re really serious about keeping the ecosystem balanced on our farm.”
Part of Spiral Path Farm’s mission and CSA program is getting members directly involved. They host monthly “farm days” on Saturdays during the season. “We want our members to experience what it’s like on the farm,” Brownback says. “It’s a pretty fun, successful thing that gives people an opportunity to see where their food is coming from. It’s especially great for kids. We focus on projects that get them interested in farming. We want to teach them that dirt is good, that bugs are good. We like to get them dirty. We want to keep their interest in eating well. We know the parents want to eat healthy, but we want the kids to want to eat healthy, too.”
Spiral Path Farm is located at 538 Spiral Path Lane, in Loysville, PA. For more information about the farm and CSA membership, call 717-789-4433 or visit SpiralPathFarm.com. See ad page xx.
Kate Morgan is a frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine and can be reached at byKateMorgan@gmail.com.