meet the farmer
Rise and Shine Farms exemplifies the new country grower.
WRITTEN BY SUSIE SUTPHIN
PHOTOS BY CANDICE NYANDO
I'm worried we don't have a good story," Terri Marsh says modestly as we get acquainted and walk across the drive to meet the chickens. "Every farm has a story," I say.
It quickly became evident that Rise and Shine Farms most certainly does have a story.
Driven by a changing economy and a desire to be self-sustaining, Terri and Mike Marsh decided to supplement their professional careers with a market farm on their property just west of Fallon. The Marshes started with a small, 14-person egg community-supported agriculture program in 2006. By the next year, they had expanded to a 78-person egg and vegetable CSA. With that, Rise and Shine Farms was born.
The Marsh family: Mike; Kasidy, 15; and Terri with animals from their Fallon farm, Rise and Shine Farms
Mike is a retired Marine and works at Lowe's. And Terri has had a successful cleaning business for years. Together, they pulled upon their experience as kids growing up in rural America — Terri on a farm in Alabama, Mike on a ranch in Montana — to start the farm. Their first customers were Terri's clients.
"We didn't begin with much," Terri says, offering that as advice to aspiring farmers. "We believed in what we wanted to do and went for it."
Their three-acre farm is absent of tractors, big barns, and other capital-intensive equipment. It is a discreet operation with a simple farmhouse, a chicken coop, and a few outbuildings. The focus is on producing quality food with respect to the earth and the animals.
With help from their 15-year-old adopted granddaughter, Kasidy, this three-person team provides an abundance of food for the Northern Nevada community. While best known for its farm-fresh eggs, Rise and Shine's diverse array of vegetables brings a new surprise each week in the growing season (typically summer and fall).
The farm is Certified Naturally Grown (Naturallygrown.org), meaning Rise and Shine follows natural farming practices. Those practices enable Terri and Mike to turn the sandy soil of this arid region into a fertile oasis.
"The sandy soil needs lots of organic material to build up the root structure in order to hold water," says Mike, who pays close attention to the soil's health by rotating crops and amending them with compost (see related story in Edible Garden section). The compost is made on site and is delivered frequently before each planting.
Terri manages the planting schedule, which she prepares well in advance of the first seeds hitting the ground on March 1st. A farm is only as good as its farm management plan and Terri and Mike are prepared.
When asked how they control pests and weeds, Terri smiles and says, "By hand! We've found that even the organic-approved solutions don't work so we just do it the old-fashioned way."
It demonstrates the value of small farms. In theory, small farms have a more intimate relationship with their crops, making it easier to manage and mitigate potential pest and weed outbreaks using natural methods.
What sets Rise and Shine apart is its home delivery. For Mike and Terri, it's not just about "Know Your Farmer." It's about "Know Your Customer." And it's more than a way to differentiate their farm and provide superior customer service. It's a way to create relationships.
"It's easy to belong to a CSA and never meet your farmer," Terri says.
"It takes two days but it's worth it," says Mike, who makes the weekly deliveries between May and September. It also increases access to healthy food for people who may not otherwise be able to make it to a pick-up site.
To offer even more variety in its CSA box, Rise and Shine partners with local food producers to provide fresh local honey, coffee from Wood-Fire Roasted Coffee Company of Reno, and grass-fed beef and lamb from Albaugh Ranch of Fallon. This farmer co-op idea leverages the strengths of each member, while creating a grassroots distribution system.
The Marshes are examples of the new country farmer: managing to hold jobs in town while running a full-time farm. They are supporting their community in more ways than one. Together, they are helping build a more resilient economy that sustains their family as well as their neighboring growers, ranchers, and food producers.
They also are standing on the frontier of small-scale poultry processing in Nevada. After trying to navigate bureaucratic regulations for more than two years, their hopes of operating a micro-meat-chicken business seemed out of reach. However, through edible Reno-Tahoe writers' recent research on the issue (see related story on poultry processing), the Marshes learned that the regulatory climate is not as bleak as they thought. Now they are pioneering the way for other small Nevada poultry farmers, which will further localize our food system. Check the Rise and Shine website over coming months for the opportunity to welcome and support their new meat-chicken business. For details, visit www.Riseandshinefarms.com.
Truckee resident Susie Sutphin has Foodlust (a deep respect for food). She writes about it on her blog www.Foodlust.net.