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Trish Mumme


On the afternoon I visit Trish Mumme's farm she is putting the final touches on a small wooden chicken coop, the roof of which is a camper lid for a truck bed. In the afternoon sun she bustles with the energy of someone much younger – but, apparently, that is just a prerequisite.

Trish (or, Dr. Mumme) teaches religious studies part-time at various central Ohio colleges. She is active in OEFFA's Heart of Ohio chapter and in Promoting Ohio Women in Agriculture (POWA), which she helped to found. Trish is also involved in the East Central Ohio Beekeepers' Association.

One wonders when Trish finds time to catch her breath, because she also operates her 3 acre farm as a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA). This year 20 members belong to the farm, which is about average for a membership that has ranged from 15 to 20 in past years. She keeps more than an acre in row crops that include vegetables, culinary herbs and cut flowers. Another half of an acre produces blackberries, apples, peaches and pears, and 60 beehives.

Trish's passion for gardening started two decades ago in an unlikely place: Her apartment building. She kept a small garden plot there and learned how to grow food through trial and error and observation. "That's actually a pretty good way to learn because you get your plot and you can walk over and see what someone else is doing!" she says. From then on, farming became “a good addiction." She knew when the time came to move that she must have a house with a large garden.

While Trish’s own parents were not farmers, her grandparents were, and they retired to a home with a large garden. Like her grandparents, Trish and her husband Burt Hafkin started growing food for themselves when they moved into their current house. As Trish expanded the garden she began producing more food than she could eat or give away. She became interested in marketing when she realized that "it's no harder to sell (food) than it is to give it away."

Trish first learned about CSA at her brother's wedding. "My new sister-in-law was gushing about this farm that they belonged to where they paid a certain amount at the beginning of the season and they got a big bag (of produce) every week or two. And I thought, 'Well hey, I can do that!'"

Trish was a full-time professor at the time she started her CSA in 1993. The focus of the first five years was on earning enough profit to subsidize her passion for gardening and to help pay for a greenhouse and tractor equipment. Then, in 1999, Trish wrote a proposal to revive the vegetable garden at Malabar Farm Gardens at Malabar Farm State Park, located just off of Interstate 71. The farm was certified organic for the two years that Trish served as garden manager. The experience pushed Trish to try achieving a higher level of chemical-free production on her own farm, knowing it would improve both the environment and customer satisfaction. Plus, she knew the bees would appreciate it.

Trish's farm is not currently certified organic because she feels the operation is too small to justify the cost and because the straw mulch she uses on the field is not organic. However, Trish considers her farming methods sustainable and ecologically sound. She markets her farm as "pesticide-free" at the Worthington Farmers’ Market where she sells surplus produce. Striving for more organic production has improved the organic content in the soil, which she built up using leaf mulch and duck manure she gets from a friend. Trish has also seen an increase in wildlife and beneficial insects. The farm has become a haven for many species of insects, frogs, and birds.

Deer and raccoons have started prospering, too, and are the biggest problem on the farm. Trish installed electrified fences around the fruit trees that keep away the raccoons, but the deer problem seems to get worse by the year.

Overall, the 16-year-old farm is thriving and has the distinction of being one of the longest-running CSAs in the state. For many years it was the only CSA in Licking County. "I enjoy CSA because you get to know your customer base," Trish says. She even has some longtime members that probably speak more to her success than anything else, since it takes a special kind of person to be both a good farmer and a constant hostess.

But Trish has no qualms about putting her members to work and they are asked to provide two or three hours of labor during the harvest season. "It helps a lot," she says. "I think it puts the community support in Community Supported Agriculture." The members can get something out of the work, too. Those who work on the farm are more likely to understand "what we’re up against" – such as the pests, the hard labor, or the reason why there are no tomatoes in June. They are better poised to appreciate the strenuous human effort and forces of nature that go into a basket of fresh vegetables.

Trish also has two or three workers every year from the OEFFA apprenticeship program, a component she chaired for many years until the task fell to organic educator Mike Anderson. As chair she was in charge of program promotion, recruitment and coordination. She enjoys hosting her apprentices and still keeps in touch with former interns, some of whom have gone on to work on, or manage, other farms.

Over a decade has passed since Trish first became involved with OEFFA. She enjoys the conferences and has attended each one since 1996. Says Trish, "The conferences have been really educational for me. I've learned a lot from them and I've given some workshops in the past. I think it's just a great place to learn. I recommend it to anyone who is beginning farming; when that weekend rolls around there is no more important place for them to be." But she thinks the best part of OEFFA is "the networking; having as friends other farmers who you can go to for advice or ideas (or to commiserate!)."

If there is commiserating to be done, it is not obvious at first sight. Giant blossoms and cabbage heads line rows of soil that bristle with insects. After so many years of success Trish is now in a position to give advice. She recommends farming on a small scale to learn basic skills as well as keeping an additional or off-season job. Trish explains, "It's very difficult to be profitable if you are still trying buy the equipment or don't have your land or your house paid for. We're profitable now, but it's still not a full-time income. My position is, be sure that one person has a full-time job or that two people have part-time jobs. We're profitable now that we own the tractors and the equipment but getting to that point was difficult. If you're looking at it in terms of profit, I'm not sure farming or CSA is the way to go."

If farm life is not lucrative, it is at least gratifying. "I like Gene Logsdon, when he says you should think about farming in terms of satisfaction per acre rather than profit," she says. Trish gets satisfaction from growing good food, sharing it with others, eating it, and being self-sufficient. She says the garden "serves as a year-round exercise program." She doesn't have to buy produce from June through December and usually has enough to last most of winter.

To Trish, success means "enjoying what you do; knowing that what you do is actually improving the environment or at least making as little of an impact as possible; improving your little corner of the world." Trish's energy, excitement and palpable joy are a testament to the success she’s achieved. Her garden is bountiful and her customers are pleased. If these are riches in themselves, Trish is something like a millionaire.

About the writer: Danielle Deemer is working on her master's degree in Rural Sociology at the Ohio State University. Danielle, through her OEFFA internship, profiled some of the organization's most accomplished members and their successes, creating OEFFA’s Profiles of Success series. Lauren Ketcham has updated and edited content. This series is being unveiled throughout OEFFA's 30th anniversary celebration year.