|Tim and Krista Showalter Ehst, of Valley Run CSA, with some of the broiler chickens they raise as part of the program's meat offerings. The farm uses organic and sustainable farming practices.
For Tim and Krista Showalter Ehst, Valley Run CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is more of a way of life than a business.
Believing the modern agribusiness system is broken, the 20-somethings have planted their roots at the Ehst Valley Homestead in Bally and hope to ultimately bring consumers closer to their food through a year-round farm model which offers diverse weekly harvests, in addition to pastured meats and eggs, in exchange for a financial pledge.
It is an increasingly popular system that puts people back in touch with what sustains them, the way it is grown and the farmers who produce it.
The couple said while they are both one generation-removed from active farming families, they felt the pull to open their own CSA after spending several years interning at a rural Kentucky CSA after college and running an urban model in Atlanta, Georgia.
“For me, I found it rewarding to be hands-on,” said Krista Showalter Ehst, now an 11th generation farmer, of their time in Kenton County, Kentucky. “This is enabling the community to be a part of that.”
“We have a really broken food system,” Tim Showalter Ehst noted, while taking a walk around the hills of the 80-acre farm Monday. “People, including myself, were eating really bad foods, overprocessed foods; foods that are health risks. Being a part of the larger [small-scale] farming movement is a little way to continue keeping at the fight against industrialized food.”
Valley Run CSA offers a mixed-diet, free choice program. Customers pay a flat fee per household based on the number of people and ages of children. Once a week, for the year, they pick up food at the Ehst Homestead Farm of freshly harvested vegetables, chicken, pork and eggs, all raised on the farm.
The program, under free-choice parameters, allows customers to take whatever quantities they need for the week as well as pick the variety.
Krista Showalter Ehst said the goal is to get people to eat like farmers with diversity and the healthiest food you can get at affordable prices.
The farming is done organically, without chemical pesticides herbicides or fertilizers, and the animals are raised on pasture without antibiotics or hormones. They are supplemented with organic grain.
The couple also utilizes sustainable farming methods including composting, cover cropping and rotating where they grow their vegetables to build and maintain soil health.
In the spring the farm produces the likes of head lettuce and Asian salad mix, beets, broccoli, carrots and peas. The summer sees bounties of peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon, sweet corn and tomatoes and the fall and winter offer onions, kohlrabi, cauliflower, potatoes, spinach and squash.
In all, Valley Run CSA produces 40 different vegetables, in anywhere from 60 to 80 varieties, to choose whenin season.
The vegetables are started indoors in a greenhouse and are transplanted out on about 2 acres of what the pair refers to as some of the “best soil in the world” when ready. There they use a variety of methods, including row covers, beneficial insects from a flower garden and natural, plant-based pesticides to maintain them.
The result is flavorful, vitamin- and mineral-rich foods fresh to the table.
“We hope this continues to catch on,” said Krista Showalter Ehst of the CSA model. “There has been a lot of interest in eating locally and eating by seasons. We want eventually be a one-stop shop [offering dairy, dried beans, honey and the like].
“We’re committed to taking care of the land and growing good food for the local community.”
For more information on Valley Run CSA, located at 1688 Route 100, Bally, visit www.valleyruncsa.com, or call Krista at (484)650-7036 or Tim at (484)300-3586.