8 Questions With Sarah Ward of Oasis Springs Farms
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!
Sarah and Chris Ward got their start in urban farming in 2016 when they purchased a Leafy Green Machine (LGM). Although neither Sarah nor her husband Chris had experience in commercial farming, Sarah had over 17 years experience in marketing, public relations and project management, and Chris had a background in information technology and engineering, so they decided to leverage their professional abilities and mutual love for local food by launching Oasis Springs Farm. Their mission? To provide fresh, healthy, local produce year round to their community in southern New Hampshire through environmentally friendly practices and high tech resources. We recently spoke with Sarah about launching her LGM and her tricks for maintaining a loyal customer base.
Freight Farms (FF): What, if any was your experience with farming before becoming a Freight Farmer?
Sarah Ward (SW): We did a little hydroponic growing in our home the winter before to have fresh herbs and lettuce throughout the winter months. It was during all the research we did for our home operation that we came across the opportunity to scale up large enough to not only feed ourselves, but our community as well.
FF: How did you find customers to buy your produce?
SW: This was one of the scariest parts of the business, trying to find interested people to buy it. We connected with local groups and businesses that have like-minded missions to bring good food to people. And we are always rewarding people with free lettuce and greens when they connect us with new businesses or CSA members.
FF: Who do you sell to and how do you do it?
SW: We wanted to diversify where we sell to as each market has its pros and cons. Right now half of our farm is dedicated to our CSA program and the other half is for restaurant and retail sales. It amazes me every week how much we can grow.
FF: What kinds of crops do you grow?
SW: We like variety and so do our CSA members and chefs. Right now we are growing a variety of large and mini head lettuce, kale, kalettes, arugula, mustard greens and herbs like cilantro, dill, parsley, and sorrel. Experimenting with new crops is fun and I love to see what we can grow! We have even experimented with radishes and beets.
FF: What’s the best piece of advice you can give to people interested in becoming Freight Farmers?
SW: Be flexible and patient! When we first started we wanted everything handed to us with the perfect formula for success, but we quickly learned that things change and you can’t always count on what you planned for. Be adaptable and open to new ideas.
FF: What was the most challenging part of becoming a Freight Farmer and how were you able to overcome it?
SW: Even with a Freight Farms unit, farming in general requires a lot of time. There have been many exhausting early mornings and late nights. Managing a full-time business and raising a family certainly has its challenges. We have worked hard over the last year to find the right work-life balance by trying to create a schedule that works for our family.
FF: Share your favorite customer stories with us!
SW: One of our chefs creates meals for picky foodie musicians on tours and I love to hear the feedback she gets on how much they like it. I call it our Rock Star Lettuce Mix!
FF: What are your plans for the future?
SW: We plan to GROW and continue to find new ways that this resource can benefit both us and the community that we live in. Most people are amazed that we do this from our backyard. The support has been amazing. I get called Lettuce Lady a lot.