Mariah and Greg Anderson decided to turn their 5 acre back yard into a small garden patch for growing mums back in 2009. Today, just six years later, they have a booming business growing more than 10,000 mums, starter plants, and a variety of vegetables and providing both fresh produce and fall beauty to their surrounding community. We caught up with Mariah to learn how they do it.
1. Can you tell me a little bit about your farm?
We grow a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, fall mums and cut flowers on 10 acres in DeWitt County Illinois. Variety is what keeps our farm interesting over the season and we believe it's the best way to inspire our community to relish in the taste of seasonal produce and admire the unique beauty of flowers we grow. We also offer a CSA to 75 members.
In 2009, we employed a local FFA member to assist us with our fall mums and she used the experience for her FFA record book project. Because of our farm’s expansion, we hired a few more to our team and each of our team members assist us in planting, weeding, scouting, harvesting, and providing our fresh produce and plants to customers.
2. Tell me a little bit about the sustainable farming practices that you use (Certified organic? Chemical free? Pasture raised? Cage free? Grass fed? Etc.)
We operate our farm through viable based agricultural practices and we will be transparent from end to end.
3. Why is it important to you to use the particular sustainable practices you mentioned above?
Our values are rooted in our farm. We believe in healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet. Our philosophy is to be ethically responsible, resourceful, good stewards of the land, and grow healthy and safe products for our community.
4. Why did you become a farmer?
We are no strangers to working in the agriculture industry. Greg grew up on a fresh produce and pumpkin farm near Leland, IL and Mariah grew up on a small livestock farm near Dongola, IL. Their love for agriculture and business led them to careers in the agriculture industry. Greg has a degree in Agriculture Business Management with thirteen years of experience working in the agriculture research sector. Mariah has a degree in Agriculture Communications from Illinois State University and has a diverse professional background in agriculture research, education, event and program management, marketing/branding and business analysis. Their mum operation started to become more of a hobby which lead them to make the jump to expand their farm so Greg could farm full time in 2013.
5. What is your favorite part of farming?
Connecting our community with the farmers and land that produced their produce or plants is our favorite part of farming. From the moment we put the seed in the ground to the moment we put it in the hands of our customers, we know we are doing something good for our community.
6. Tell us about an important lesson that you’ve learned since you started farming.
Our farm operation really started with just an idea in a kitchen in 2008. Both of us worked fulltime off the farm and at the time, we had 5 acres that we purchased with our house that we spent most of the time mowing. Because we both worked in agriculture related jobs, we knew we wanted to have some kind of farm someday. Since we lived close to several pumpkin patches in the area, we decided to grow fall mums. After a lot of internet research and phone calls, we started with our first crop of 300 high-quality garden mums in 2009. Because of our local and loyal customer base, we now grow 10,000 mums. In 2014, we expanded our season beyond fall to provide our customers, their families, and our community with a local source of bedding plants, hanging baskets, and fresh, healthy, and delicious produce. We are also very proud to be the first farm in DeWitt County to offer a CSA.
7. Tell us about a favorite or meaningful moment that happened on your farm.
We are very proud of the young lady (Raeann) who started working for us our very first year of growing mums. She has used her work on our farm for her FFA Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) record book in Specialty Crop Production. As we expanded our farm, so did her work on our farm and her involvement in FFA. Each year she competed with her record book at the Section FFA and District contests and this past year she advanced to the state competition and WON! It has been a rewarding experience watching her excel and grow as a leader. She just started her freshman year of college this past fall and is considering a career as an agricultural teacher and she continues to work on our farm while in college.
8. Do you host any special events on the farm?
In addition to tour groups, schools and clubs visiting our farm throughout the season, we host an annual open house in early fall. Over 1,000 people visit our farm during the day to participate in our farm tour and kid activities, see live antique tractor and plow demonstrations, and purchase local products from us and local vendors.
9. What are the main ways consumers can find your products?
We offer a CSA and onsite sales from early June to early October. We have a farm stand once a week at the Clinton Antique Mall in Clinton, IL, and our produce and plants are sold a various stores and vendors in the DeWitt & McLean county areas. A complete list of where to find our products can be located at www.mariahsmums.com