017 Shinecast – Snow’s Bend Farm

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Episode 017 of the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast features an interview with David Snow of Snow’s Bend Farm in Coker, Alabama. Snow’s Bend Farm is one of Alabama’s premiere sustainable farms. David and Margaret Ann have a thriving CSA program and supply produce to some of the nation’s leading farm-to-table restaurants

Although David doesn’t name the restaurants, I know that Snow’s Bend Farm produce is served at Frank Stitt’s Highland’s Bar & Grill and Hot + Hot Fish Club, and Epiphany Cafe among others.

Stream it here or subscribe and listen via iTunes, doubleTwist or Zune.

I’m continuing to explore options for getting these interviews transcribed, but here are some highlights of this week’s episode:

Snow’s Bend Farm in Coker, Alabama is located on land in David’s family since the 1860s. In 2004, David & Margaret Ann moved to Alabama to begin farming at Snow’s Bend Farm. They started with a 1/4-acre garden in first year. Prior to David and Margaret Ann’s return to Alabama, in David’s lifetime, the land had been leased to a “conventional row crop farmer.”

Screenshot of Snow's Bend Farm website

They now manage 15 acres for commercial vegetable production (10 acres in planted at a time) and have eight fenced acres where they raise pastured pigs. They plan to add cattle in the near future.

Although David wasn’t raised in a farming family, he always had a connection to the family farm for recreational purposes so he has a strong “attachment to place.”

Snow's Bend Farm produce at Pepper Place Saturday Market in Birmingham“My earliest motivation stems from becoming aware in college years of how food was produced, environmental and social welfare issues that accompany industrial agricultural systems,” David says.

“I studied natural resources in college but couldn’t find a job when graduated,” David explains. “I expected to work for park service, geologic survey, forestry service, maybe return to the farm when I retired.”

After undergrad (or near the end of undergrad), David spent 4 months working in Ecuador with that country’s largest grassroots conservation group. They started small plot sustainable farms.

David also did an independent study working on an organic farm near his family land.

In 2003, David’s partner, Margaret Ann, was evacuated from Morocco where she was serving in the Peace Corp. They settled in Seattle, near her parents, and worked on an a farm in that area for the season. They became “addicted” to the fresh food grown at the farm and that they purchased from area farmers markets.

Sustainable farms that grow organically must compete quality not price.

As David points out, it costs more to produce food sustainably, but the benefits are spread around the local community.

The environmental benefits include building the soil, rather than degrading the soil.

In the interview, I pointed out that I believe that health benefits are not taken into account in the economic equation. In other words, the true costs of the conventional food system are not reflected in the cost of the products sold. The environmental and health costs of industrial food system and highly-processed foods not factored into the “cost” of food, so the price of organically and sustainably grown foods appears higher due to the artificial deflation of the true cost of conventional, subsidized agriculture.

Challenges that Young Farmers Face, in David’s view are as follows:

1. Access to Land, particularly prime farmland
2. Training and experience in sustainable farming
3. Labor
4. Access to markets
Sustainable farms need to be in a larger urban area to have viable market
Rural residents often either don’t want produce, or they grow their own, or know someone who grows
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I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Shine Springs Farm Shinecast. I’d love to hear your feedback on these interviews. Do you enjoy the interview episodes. Leave your thoughts below as a comment. Thanks!

About Sheree

Change Catalyst, Idea Explorer, Dot-Connector, Square Peg