By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The tools used are the same on Ford and Amanda Waterstrat’s farm as they are across many farms in Laurel County, but their practices are anything but standard. The USDA Certified Organic Sustainable Harvest Farm is their lifetime investment to the local community and environment’s health, while it’s continuing to grow in size.
“We are coming to the end of our third season here in London. Although we are still a relatively small operation, we’ve grown steadily, and each year we have more than tripled in production,” Ford Waterstrat said.
Waterstrat is often seen at the London-Laurel County Farmers Market selling bushels of season-ripe fruits and vegetables. At home, he delivers baskets of the same produce to his 35-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), which has tripled in participation since it began in 2010. The farm periodically updates their CSA families who support them on all of their best organic farm practices along with a wealth of healthy recipes.
“Both of us also really love the way that working on the farm creates opportunities to work with and connect with other members of our community,” Waterstrat said.
Each year, the family offers a farm tour for all of their consumers to enjoy a day outdoors at their farm located on Pistol Creek Road, seven miles from London. Many CSA members are from counties surrounding Laurel, including Christie Adams, who is from Pulaski County.
“We chose to buy organic for the health benefits of avoiding pesticides. We have a toddler and, as a result, we have tried to be more conscious of eating a healthy diet,” Adams said.
Organics grown on the farm range from broccoli to potatoes and Heirloom tomatoes to sweet corn, among many others. The Waterstrats have recently purchased a large plot of land behind their home that borders their farm’s nearby water source to graze a couple of grass-fed cattle. Their growth will bring forth better agricultural practices to ensure a future of organic farming in Laurel County, Waterstrat said.
The couple is currently raising their two-year-old son, Finley. They work on the farm part time as they are both full-time educators. They don’t have all of their eggs in one basket, so to speak, but they said they’re always continuing to learn new skills whenever possible. For Ford Waterstrat, there’s always a challenge to take on while working with his hands, because he said each season carries with it new rewards and more challenges than the one before.
Amanda Waterstrat works more inside the kitchen than outside in the dirt. She always has a steady supply of fresh produce to cook with.
Lately, it has become a fad, not only locally but nationally, to advertise farm produce as organic or “natural,” but he said the truth is that a USDA Certified Organic farm is really something quite unique. Strict regulations must be followed for crop production, the process is costly and third parties randomly inspect the farm each year. Organic means there are no synthetic chemicals, no genetically modified (GM) seeds and no synthetic fertilizers used.
“From potting soil and carefully selected seeds to pest control practices, we use only thoughtful, safe, health techniques on our farm,” he said.
In order to tell the difference — check the label. All organic products at the market that are certified will have a USDA Certified Organic sticker. Waterstrat understands that organic may sound like a foreign idea to some, so often he just tries to stress the importance of supporting locally grown products, no matter whose farm they come from.
“Fresh, local products are great, even if they’re not organic,” he said.
According to Fred King, president of the London-Laurel County Farmers Market, supporting local produce allows the community to not only enjoy something fresh for a change, but also helps the local economy begin to sustain itself.
The Sustainable Harvest Farm is the only USDA Certified Organic farm in the southeastern Kentucky, and sells with many other local vendors at the London-Laurel County Farmers Market three times a week. The market is open, June through August, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.
For more information, visit www.sustainableharvestfarm.com. For more information about the local farmers market, call the Laurel County Cooperative Extension at 606-864-4167.