By Tanya Brown, Outreach Marketing Editor
For a few years, Kacie Luckett, who had only two acres of growing space, was told there was no way she could compete against large farms at a farmers market.
They were right.
“It wasn’t going too well and I wasn’t making a profit,” said Kacie, owner of Luckett Farms in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She tried to get into a local farmers market in Baton Rouge — the largest farmers market in the area. “But they wouldn’t let me in because I had no experience and didn’t have a big enough garden or variety of produce,” said Kacie.
So she turned her sights elsewhere.
After a brief conversation with her sister-in-law, she decided to take a different route and use the two acres of land in her backyard to start a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. CSAs allow individuals to purchase shares of the harvest produced by a farm.
She started in 2013 with seven CSA members. Today, Kacie has more than 400 members to whom she weekly provides boxes of fresh corn, tomatoes, peas, eggplant, fruits and multiple other vegetables. She also expanded from two acres to 30 acres to meet demand and markets her CSA at the local hospital and YMCA.
“It’s truly rewarding,” said Kacie. “We started from nothing and now we are able to build relationships with our CSA members and educate people about their food.”
The quick growth of her business also required more capital and more workers. Kacie quit her full-time job as a home health care provider and her husband quit his job at the paper mill to handle the workload. But they needed more help.
“Hiring was a huge challenge for us,” said Kacie. They decided to use individuals with H2A visas. The H2A visa allows foreign agricultural workers to be hired seasonally in the U.S.
“Luckett Farms uses farming methods signature to no other within the vicinity,” said Martin Fontenot, senior farm loan officer with the Louisiana Farm Service Agency (FSA), a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “Although local commercial lenders were not immediately interested in Luckett Farms, Kacie was determined to succeed and her operation was a good fit for the microloan.”
The FSA microloan provides up to $50,000 to meet the financing needs of small, new, niche and non-traditional farmers. Kacie used the loan to help pay for six H2A laborers and to purchase materials for the next growing season, which for Kacie is year-round.
“I never would have seen myself as a farmer,” said Kacie, who also provides tours of her farm and created a Facebook community where CSA members can learn about the produce in their boxes and obtain recipe ideas. “Three or four years ago I didn’t know any of the people in our CSA, now they’ve become our friends.”