The Stars Align for Good Keeper Farm
June 26, 2019
Sometimes in business, the stars align. For Matt Lowe and Julie Henninger, owners of Good Keeper Farm, Adams County, stars aligned over a farm. “The farm we met on is the farm we bought and started our family,” remembers Julie.
Before Matt and Julie met, they both pursued their farming passions on opposite coasts.
Matt first worked in the live theater industry in San Francisco for several years after college graduation. “A friend peeked my interest in food, nutrition and sustainable land use,” Matt shared. “I started learning about it and it took everything over.”
Matt’s learning pursuits brought him to farms on the east coast spending seasons at Radical Roots in Harrisonburg, Va., North Mountain Pastures in Newport, and eventually meeting Julie at Earth Spring Farm, Mt. Holly Springs.
After graduating from college, Julie served with Americorps as a case worker in Waco, TX. In college and in Texas, she also nurtured her interests, volunteering at various farms before returning, unintentionally, to her hometown of Mt. Holly Springs and managing Earth Spring Farm, the property she eventually bought with Matt.
To purchase the farm, an FSA lender recommended AgChoice Farm Credit. “We didn’t have the means of buying the farm or moving forward on our big projects,” Julie recalled. “We knew we were going to need a lender.”
Julie continued, “It ended up working out beautifully. AgChoice helped us with everything we needed.”
“I appreciate AgChoice’s cooperative structure,” Matt said. “It’s really nice to know that the profit motive is not in the equation.”
With a lender she trusts, “It was exciting to take a deep breath and focus on what we’re good at which is growing food,” explained Julie.
Both Matt and Julie wanted a diverse business. They visited farms with models they hoped to replicate. With Julie’s knowledge of vegetable production and Matt’s expertise in pasture raised animals, they decided they could launch as a diverse CSA. “The timing was right, our backgrounds complemented each other and we were ready to take the risk,” Julie said.
“Our model is slow in capital compared to other farms,” explained Matt. “And each individual enterprise could operate on a shoe string budget. Together, all the businesses can take care of a family.”
Three years into their dream, Good Keeper Farm is a year round, full diet, free choice CSA. In this business model, “Our customers are members,” explained Matt. “They pay a flat rate per person. Vegetables, meat, dairy, bread, eggs and fruit are included and it’s infinitely customizable.” Matt and Julie rarely set limits on what their members take through the CSA season, May 1 – December 28.
Although they advertise the business using a variety of tactics, including digital, social media and signs, Matt and Julie agree that face-to-face marketing is key. “We participate in a local farmer’s markets and also have a refer-a-friend program for our members,” said Julie.
What are the entrepreneurs’ advice for farmers considering the CSA model? “Work for others as long as possible,” Julie said. “We probably could have worked another year under other farmers to develop our vision. It’s vital and 100% necessary.”
“I think it’s important to work for a farm that’s relatively close to the model you have in mind,” shared Matt. “We had challenges learning from other vegetable farmers because it wasn’t how we wanted to go to market.”
To learn more about Good Keeper Farm, visit www.goodkeeperfarm.com or find the farm on Facebook and Instagram.