Greg and Mariah Anderson didn’t start out as farmers. Greg grew up in northern Illinois, Mariah in southern Illinois and they both grew up in FFA — in fact, that’s where the two met, while serving as Section FFA Presidents. After school and marriage, the two decided to start their own farm, Triple M Farm, in central Illinois.
“We bought a farm house with some acreage just east of Clinton,” Mariah said. “At the time, we both had full time jobs, but we knew we wanted to have some kind of farming operation. Our neighbors just happened to own a pumpkin farm and, in the fall of 2008, we offered to start growing fall mums for their pumpkin farm.”
Greg and Mariah readily admit they had no clue what they were getting into, but after some research, and pure faith and determination, they planted their first crop of 300 mums in 2009. Each year, they increased their mum operation as the awareness of their mums increased in the community.
“What makes us unique is that we grow several specialty varieties of mums that you might not see in the box stores,” Mariah said. “We put a lot of emphasis on the quality of our plants and spend a lot of time taking notes during the growing stages and again in the fall. We have really got it down to a science on the best varieties for our operation. This past year, we grew 8,000 mum for four pumpkin farms, our local IGA grocery store, and wholesale and retail customers.”
In addition to planting thousands of mums this year, Greg and Mariah also decided to expand their operation and venture into fruits and vegetables, cut flowers and bedding plants.
“This time we weren’t completely unaware of what we were getting into because Greg grew up on a fruit and vegetable farm,” Mariah said. “In our first year, we also decided to offer a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. For over 25 years, CSAs have been a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.”
In a CSA, farmers offer a certain number of shares to the public. Typically, the share consists of a box or basket of vegetables. A family or individual will purchase a share and, in return, receive a basket of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season. Greg and Mariah are the first farm in DeWitt County to offer a CSA and, with their shares, their members receive a basket of produce, an email newsletter and three to four recipes to complement their basket.
This year, Greg and Mariah have plans to put up an additional high tunnel to increase vegetable production. They’re also planning to open their farm to the public for more farm visits and educational experiences, as well as a farm to fork appreciation dinner at the end of the CSA season.
“We operate our farm through viable agriculture practices and we will be transparent from end to end,” Mariah said. “Our philosophy, along with farm families across the U.S., is to be ethically responsible, resourceful, good stewards of the land, and grow healthy and safe products. The American food supply is the safest in the world, thanks to the diligence of American farmers. We only use treatments to address and prevent issues, if needed. It is just like when you or your child gets sick or gets an infection. You treat what is necessary for getting better. Chemicals are expensive, so farmers are not going to want to abuse them due to cost. There is no economic incentive for a farmer to over apply. The amount of treatment we use, if needed, is very little.”
In the end, Mariah said knowing all you need to know about your food is very simple.
“When you know your farmer, you get to learn about where your food comes from and exactly how it is grown,” she said.
For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:
- Intro: 30 Days
- Day 1: Managing…everything
- Day 2: Building Relationships
- Day 3: 50/50
- Day 4: Irons in the Fire
- Day 5: Loaded Up and Trucking
- Day 6: Variety is the Spice of Life
- Day 7: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
- Day 8: You have got to start somewhere.
- Day 9: The earth that calls me.
- Day 10: Teaching changes the way I look at things at home.
- Day 11: A Family Affair
- Day 12: Diversification.
- Day 13: Bigger is Better
- Day 14: Working for the Weekend
- Day 15: Three Generations of Pauling Brothers
- Day 16: “Quality and consistency is what makes us great.”