By Sue Moore
Kurt Wiley, owner of Wiley Farms on U Avenue, is launching a Community Supporting Agriculture (CSA) program where buyers can purchase a share of the season’s harvest. Members sign a contract to help support the farm and, in return, receive a healthy supply of seasonal fresh produce for 22 weeks of the growing season.
Wiley values the relationship between his customers and the food they eat and the land it is grown on and those who grow it. This relationship provides the freshest possible produce, builds community between farmers and consumers, keeps food dollars in the local community, and creates an opportunity for dialogue between farmers and consumers. To join the CSA, Wiley can be reached at 269-679-5511.
Wiley produces a variety of crops on an old-fashioned truck farm that he has expended from about eight acres in 2008 to about 30 acres today.
He sells the many vegetables he grows at the Vicksburg Farmers Market, Texas Corners Farmers Market and his own roadside stand called Veggies on U. To accomplish this, he has installed three new hoop houses to grow and incubate the many varieties of crops he has for sale.
Most of the acreage is near the road and that helps people see their food growing, he said. The crops he is nurturing in the hoop houses or the three high tunnels, for the early birds at the market include the usual vegetables and some specialties such as garlic, Swiss Chard, collards, kohlrabi, kale, eggplant, basil, rutabaga, and lots of fresh flowers.
Wiley’s small farm is in direct contrast with the two other huge farming operations on the east and west side of Kalamazoo County which are profiled in the newspaper this month.
Small farms can be just as satisfying, Wiley said. That’s because so many customers are interested in knowing where their food is raised and how it is handled. This trend makes it all worthwhile for him, especially with the rise of local farmers markets.
“I like farming better because it’s different all the time,” he said. “For years, I did cabinet making and I still do some woodworking in the winter, but this is so much more satisfying. It’s still like living on the edge because the public doesn’t realize when fruits and vegetables come ripe in Michigan, since they are always available in the big box grocery stores. What they do understand is the taste of fresh from the farmers’ markets, and that’s what keeps us going.”
Wiley is assisted by his mother Caroline, his faithful dog Rex, and several seasonal workers who help plant and harvest.