Earth Woman Farm
Sharpsburg farm offers fresh alternative
by Clay Neely - email@example.com
With the rising cost of health care, the growing trend of “preventative care” is fast becoming a fundamental way of life for many people.
As people begin investing more and more in their own personal health, the question of the type of “fuel” they are putting in their body has become one of the most important aspects.
The answer for many local citizens lies just up a long driveway off Fischer Road in Sharpsburg.
For more than 20 years, Janet Kuenzi has run Earth Woman Farm, an organic produce co-op, and she enjoys a very loyal following. She has never had an advertising budget and has relied solely on word-of-mouth since the farm’s inception.
By providing some of the freshest produce from around the country, including Mexico, Kuenzi provides an oasis for the many individuals who are tired or skeptical of the quality of produce that is available at chain supermarkets.
“I think people are really starting to investigate what they’re putting into their bodies,” Kuenzi said. “Even when faced with the recent economic adversities, these folks never cut back on organic produce. It’s such a staple in their lives that it’s not even seen as a luxury.”
The demand for organic food has kept Kuenzi working hard to deliver the best food she can.
“Our members run the gamut of society. We have parents who are unhappy with the food that the schools provide, a lot of do-it-yourself types, women who still make the most of their meals at home and they want to know everything their kids are eating — mainly, people who are really starting to prioritize their health over everything,” Kuenzi said.
“We have parents who have children that can’t have gluten or dairy. So I try to carry an assortment of gluten-free items and I can always special order certain things for people since I have a wonderful range of sources. “
One of her proudest contacts is Azure Standard, a food delivery service based in Oregon that specializes in offering GMO free, organic and natural products.
“They are absolutely committed to pure, wholesome food,” said Kuenzi. “When I mentioned I could get things from Azure, folks were definitely excited. It’s a great company.”
While keeping stock of the array of items that the farm sells, the issue of “time” is another matter she constantly faces.
With only Tuesday and Wednesday being open for retail, the rest of her time is spent working on the next order and anything else that comes up in both her business and personal life.
As a one-woman operation, she rarely has a free moment.
“Eighty-five percent of people who come here wonder, ‘Wow, what a neat job, only working two days a week.’ But it’s a 24-7 operation,” Kuenzi said. “People who own their own business probably understand what I’m doing, but a lot of people don’t see just how much goes on when they’re not here.”
As soon as the week’s shipment arrives on Monday, it’s sorted, priced and sold. Without pause, Kuenzi is back to work, getting the following week lined up.
“I have to get pricing squared away, then the next task is to send out the information to the people who get our delivery orders, so that it is very specific. The orders are set up in a format so that there’s a certain structure.”
However, there are different items available each week so Kuenzi has to be able to modify on the fly. “One week you might get only 10 ounces of asparagus or you might get 12 or 13 since the price goes down,” Kuenzi said. “Some items are more constant than others.”
Once her order is set up, she begins to email the list to all the members who are on their delivery service, replying to every response that she gets — her dry erase board is constantly fluctuating with inventory and pricing.
“I’m contacting new people who want to know prices, so I have to update and monitor the master price list,” Kuenzi said. “Some people order a la carte, so they need to know the individual prices since they’re not looking at the overall structure of the box that the members get.”
However, Kuenzi gets by with a little help from her friends.
Helen Epstein, a resident of Peachtree City who has spent the last eight years volunteering to help make the co-op run a little easier, spends many of her Tuesdays working on the home delivery route.
“She’s good with the people and the best thing is, she sees what needs to be done and she does it. I trust her 100 percent in any situation and that’s the difference between an employee and someone who is on your team,” Kuenzi said. “She really believes in what I’m doing so that makes a huge difference.”
However, Kuenzi feels that the products she offers is only half of what she provides her members.
“This space is not just sales booth for produce,” Kuenzi said. “It’s an energy and information exchange that has made a huge impact on people’s lives. When a person comes in, they may either start a conversation or hear a conversation with a question. No matter who is here, there is always someone who has an answer.”
Kuenzi feels that this environment has served as a place for like-minded people to network.
“There are so many who come to the farm not only because they want to feed their family healthy food, but they also receive support, meet new people and find solutions. It is so much a part of my life,” Kuenzi said. “I mean, there are things I can’t quantify in dollars and cents. They are my family.”
Kuenzi admits while the schedule she keeps might not suit everybody, she rolls along with the flow of whatever life has in store for her. When she does get some time for herself, she enjoys running, meditating and playing percussion for The Wyatt Band.
“Sure, it’s a ton of work but it’s nice being your own boss,” Kuenzi said.
Someone once suggested that she could sell off the land and live off the interest. “But anytime I think about retirement, I just think to myself, ‘What would I do without all my people?’”
Kuenzi admits she’d like to see some new members at the co-op and she certainly wouldn’t turn down any help around the farm but believes that everything will work itself out in due time.
“I think most of us are all a little odd but we don’t want to be normal once you realize that normal is kind of scary,” Kuenzi joked.