Families benefit from farmer’s venture

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, July 9, 2014

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L’cajn Farm sits off Farm Road 407 near Rhome. The seven acres of tall, brightly blooming crops are distinctly different from nearby brown fields, already succumbing to Wise County’s summer heat.

Another difference is L’cajn’s clientele. Volunteers work more than 16 hours a week to help owner Cecil Woods and his family maintain the farm.

HARVEST TIME – Cecil Woods holds a basket of fruit and vegetables grown for subscribers to his farm. Woods has been selling shares of his produce since 2011. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

However, the most significant difference may be that Woods’ farm is part of a community-supported agriculture system. These volunteers, and other community members, subscribe to the farm’s crops, and for a fee, they reap a portion of whatever produce is grown.

“They prepay for a share of the harvest,” Woods said. “They take a risk and gamble with me. This season 36 out of the 42 crops I planted have been successful. People are happy.”

Woods, who moved to Wise County in 2011, said he enjoys this type of farming more than growing his crops to sell on grocery store shelves.

“I like this better than I like commercial farming,” Woods said. “I used to deal with businesses. Now I deal with families.”

The Louisiana native said he originally encountered unfavorable growing conditions.

“From what I understand, 100 years ago, this region was used solely for growing cotton,” Woods said. “In doing that, the farmers helped cause the Dust Bowl. They planted until the soil was no good and then just moved on.”

A lack of nutrients in the dirt made sustainable growth nearly impossible. Woods infused his irrigation system with microbial organisms, a procedure popular in Europe to remedy weak soil.

“Now you can go out there and pick up the dirt, and it smells like dirt,” Woods said. “Before, it didn’t have a smell.”

Each week, parents bring their children out to work in the now-healthy landscape.

Woods said he enjoys seeing the young farmers learn to appreciate where their food is grown and the work it takes to put it on the table.

“I tell everyone I have an open-door policy. They can come out here any time they want,” he said. “Folks will bring their kids out to look around and get the experience. It’s like having one big family.”

It’s a family that grows a little closer each time a new round of crops is picked. The subscribers have an online forum to swap recipes and discuss gardening techniques.

“They’re trying stuff they wouldn’t normally buy,” Woods said. “If they go into a grocery store, they might not buy a certain green because they don’t know how to cook it. Now they have to do something with it.”

Unclaimed food is donated to a local food bank, Woods said.

With the popularity of his farm growing each season, Woods said he’s had to cap the number of shares at 100 and has considered dropping it to 75.

Working hard and serving the community are just a way of life for the farmer.

“It’s not a lot of land, but it is for one person,” he said. “I’m not getting rich. It’s a passion.”

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