BELLEFONTE - Most people would love to be able to live their dream.
And while some do, many struggle to find a way to make it happen.
Dave Sandy and Sara Eckert are following their dream.
The couple met while working one summer at a Community Supported Agricultural (CSA) Farm, New Morning Farm, in Scott. Sara likes to say they were roommates before they met. The farm help all shared a cabin.
They worked at several different farms and spent time working at Tait's CSA outside of Boalsburg when they realized they loved working the soil and watching vegetables grow and sharing those with others. They decided what they really wanted to do was to have a CSA farm.
They worked at Penn State and saved their money. Not saved like many of us do, but worked at saving their money so they would be able to realize their dream. At this point, Dave had to leave the interview because they were taking delivery of a piece of equipment, but Sara shared their story.
The way a CSA Farm works: People buy shares. There is usually a summer share and then a winter share. For the share, people get farm-fresh produce from the farm for the growing season they bought.
Sara and Dave's farm will sell shares that will feed two adults. The summer share is from June through November and the winter share is bi-weekly and is December through May.
With their savings, they applied for a loan and received one from the Farm Service Agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Musser family heard about the couple's desire. They worked together and now Dave and Sara lease 13 acres of Musser farm, next to the Musser Dairy Store, and are now the proud owners of Healthy Harvest Farm CSA.
Speaking with Sara, you would guess she grew up on a farm and has being doing this type of work all of her life. But in reality, she hadn't really started until 10 years ago when she had a summer job.
She talked about her love for greens: "I love salads and eat one every day. I like a variety of greens in my salad and in the wintertime, I still have fresh greens for salad. Many of the people take advantage of the winter crop sharing with a bag of fresh greens every other week."
The couple purchased two passive solar hoop houses. They are very large greenhouses and it is amazing how warm it is inside.
"The hoop house will allow us to grow greens all year," Sara said. "There are some greens that grow better than others in the winter."
Sara talked about how they will divide the acreage and their style of farming.
"We are not a certified organic farm, however all of our practices are in line with certified farms," she said. "It is a long and expensive process to be certified and right now that won't happen. We believe people will see how we are farming and understand we are using organic practices. We will cultivate nine acres and leave the other nine acres in cover crop, which suppresses the growth of weeds. This will alternate each growing season."
The farm will have over 100 varieties of vegetables.
"There are a lot of recipes on our website that will help people decide how to cook the vegetables they will be getting," Sara said. "We will also have recipes at the pickup points for the produce. We will have two sites, one will be on Tuesdays at Mussers and the other will be on Thursdays at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Waupelani Drive in State College. Dave and I plan to be at as many of the pick-ups as possible. We want the people to be able to ask us questions and get to know us."
Another perk shareholders will have is that once a month on a Saturday they will be able to come out to the farm, play in the dirt and bring a dish to share for a potluck dinner. Sara believes this will be great fun for those who choose to participate.
"I want people to learn to love vegetables and teach their children to love them," Sara said. "That is why I put the recipes on the website and plan to have a couple of recipes at the pickup points. I hope to make it simple for them to try new ways to fix vegetables and try new vegetables that maybe they haven't eaten in the past."
Sara and Dave are looking forward to meeting the people who will be part of their farm and their dream, and hope that in the process people will learn to love vegetables and as a result their families will eat a healthier diet.
They both couldn't stress enough how much they appreciate the Mussers and said they can't thank them enough.
"Without the help of the Mussers, this would not be happening," Sara said. "We looked at land to buy, but good farmland is so expensive, much more than what you would pay for a lot to build a house on. The soil here is amazing, so we really can't thank the Musser family enough."
For more details about the farm, the list of vegetables they will grow and the recipes, check out their website at healthyharvestfarmcsa.com.