6 Questions With Jon and Nathaniel Shaw of karma farm
One of the best parts of being part of the Freight Farms team is talking to our freight farmers and hearing about their successes, their businesses, their customers, and their challenges. They are a wealth of information, so now we are sharing some of their stories with you!
Jon Shaw has his roots in organic, soil-based farming. He has been an avid organic vegetable grower since he was a student in high school, and in 2009, after 45 years of gardening experience, Jon transformed his hobby into a career and launched Karma Farm. Located in Maryland, this family run farm decided to extend their growing season through the use of a hoop house, and now a Leafy Green Machine (LGM), which is run by Jon's son, Nathaniel. In addition to running a farm stand CSA, the Shaws provide area farm-to-table restaurants with leafy greens grown in the LGM year-round. With over 40 years of gardening and farming experience, Jon is a wonderful addition to our Freight Farmer community. We recently spoke with Jon and Nathaniel about the transition from traditional farming to hydroponics.
Freight Farms (FF): What, if any was your experience with farming before becoming a Freight Farmer?
Jon Shaw (JS): I started organic gardening in high school (circa 1972) and I have been growing vegetables ever since. Eight years ago, I decided to take a portion of my horse farm and turn it into commercial vegetable production.
FF: How did you find customers to buy your produce?
JS: We found many of our current customers our first summer when we grew too many tomatoes in our family garden and I decided I would go into town (Baltimore) to a few restaurants to give away samples or possibly sell them. Providing samples of our produce and explaining the breadth of our product line to chefs is still the main method we use to bring in new restaurants. Our customer base has also grown significantly from word of mouth as chefs tend to change jobs frequently.
FF: What is one small change everyone can make in their daily lives to make a big difference in our food system?
JS: Eat less meat and more vegetables.
FF: What’s the best part of being a Freight Farmer?
Nathaniel Shaw (NS): I’ve only been a Freight Farmer for a few months, but so far, the best things about it are bringing local chefs into the LGM to touch and taste the greens we are growing inside and seeing their surprise and excitement about the bold tastes and textures it can produce. Working with local chefs to find new greens and develop products that best utilize the advantages of the LGM has been an amazing process and one that I’m most excited to continue.
FF: What motivated you to become a farmer?
NS: I was motivated to become a Freight Farmer because of my desire to turn our family farm into a sustainable business. In recent years, we have worked to supply our restaurant customers with produce more consistently using row covers and hoop-houses, but our off-season production has remained slim. Our LGM gives us the ability to sustain a broader product line throughout the year and sustain our revenue and employee base over the winter.
FF: Which individuals, groups, and communities do you strive to reach and why have you chosen to get involved with these groups?
NS: We primarily target chefs at Farm-to-Table restaurants. The reason for this is that we love to grow beautiful and unusual produce and sell to chefs at mid to higher end restaurants that specialize in utilizing local ingredients. The restaurant community in nearby Baltimore is thriving and has grown with the farm as well.