Regional produce farm aims for more Community Supported Agriculture


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Jul 11, 2023

Regional produce farm aims for more Community Supported Agriculture

When Liz Graznak was growing up in Columbia, owner of Happy Hollow Farm in Jamestown, a roughly 45-minute drive southwest of Columbia, her connections to agriculture were through the produce bought at

When Liz Graznak was growing up in Columbia, owner of Happy Hollow Farm in Jamestown, a roughly 45-minute drive southwest of Columbia, her connections to agriculture were through the produce bought at the grocery store, from roadside stands and from her grandmother's expansive flower garden.

No one in her family, with the exception of her grandmother, had any background in gardening and growing produce for consumption.

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Agriculture became Graznak's career and passion when she was in graduate school and joined a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. It is something she continues to utilize through her farming operation.

"(The CSA) was my first introduction to this type of farming and to growing vegetables. I fell in love and decided that was really what I wanted to do. Everything I have learned is by doing it, interning on other farms and screwing up a lot," she said with a laugh.

Graznak also is a staple presence of the Columbia Farmers Market on Saturdays and on Wednesdays during the summer. She sells a variety of United States Department of Agriculture Certified Organic fruits, vegetables and flowers. She hopes more people will join her CSA as a way to support the farm.

"I really like growing garlic and also I really like growing lettuce. Lettuce is so beautiful and there are so many different kinds. They look different and they taste different. I love garlic because it is a hardy crop. Anything that you cook you use garlic. If you're gonna saute up some fresh vegetables, you throw in garlic," Graznak said.

This year marks 13 years in operation for Happy Hollow.

"There were no high tunnels here, there was no greenhouse, there was a very tiny, little house. There was no barn, no pack shed. It was bare ground pretty much," Graznak said about what the property used to look like, explaining that her work at other farms, a landscaping company and the equity she had in a Columbia residence gave her the capital to go to the bank to get a loan to buy the Jamestown property.

"I had a lot of guts to just start."

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Increased public demand means Graznak is expanding her operation more than three-fold. Until recently, Happy Hollow produce was grown on roughly six acres.

"Every single penny that I have made, I have just put back into the farm to try and grow the farm," Graznak said. This includes solar panels on the packing house to provide all the electrical power the farm operation needs.

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Graznak has rented an additional 16 acres from a neighbor and already is growing on the land. She is working to transform it into an organic farming operation to bring her total acreage to 22. Much of the Happy Hollow property is woodland, except for the areas that were cleared for farming. Even though the the 16 additional acres can appear small to the layman, Graznak takes a different viewpoint.

"That's a lot of space compared to what I am doing down here (on my property)," she said, adding this means she can employ more people to help plant, harvest and process produce for CSA boxes and for the farmers market.

She is using grain cover crops, such as rye, to put nutrients back into the soil, among other types of crops on the rented acreage. Cover crops can include some larger scale root vegetables, such as a type of radish that can help break up the subsoil as they grow.

"I haven't done radishes, I just want biomass. Cover crops grab onto nutrients and they hold onto the nutrients. So when you mow that cover crop and work that cover crop into the soil, the nutrients are available for your vegetables to take and use," Graznak said.

When a person participates in a CSA, they figuratively own a share of the farm. At Happy Hollow, they have three different seasonal options, with a per week cost, depending on type of share and any add-ons, such as for eggs.

When Happy Hollow was started 13 years ago, it included a CSA program. At that time there were 19 participants.

"We are now packing about 57 boxes per week. We could do many, many more. I need to grow that part of the farm and find more interested members. It takes finding the right person or family that wants to join the farm, be a member of the farm and eat produce seasonally," Graznak said.

For the money a person puts into the farm, they get a box of what it produces back out. The most economical share at Happy Hollow also means a person volunteers their time and has a more active impact on the farm, rather than the more passive route of just a receiving a weekly box of produce.

People can pick up the CSA box directly at Happy Hollow, from the farmers market or from a couple of drop off locations in Columbia. There is a delivery option for an additional cost for those who live within the Stadium Boulevard, Interstate 70, and Old Highway 63 circle.

Even low-income individuals and families can participate in the CSA. Those families can apply for a financial assistance certificate through the Fair Share CSA Coalition, so as to have a reduced CSA fee. The Fair Share Coalition covers between 25%-75% of a share cost up to $350. So, if a CSA program has an annual share cost of $600, a family could pay $250, the coalition notes on its website. Since the coalition has received a high volume of partner share applications, there is a wait list.

Everything grown at Happy Hollow starts from its greenhouse. This is where staff seeds propagation trays that will eventually be transplanted into rows either through covered tunnel-style farming or in open fields.

"I grow 100 different varieties of different things," Graznak said. "I probably have 20 different varieties of tomatoes, maybe 10 different varieties of peppers we're harvesting and five different varieties of eggplant."

The farm often works a couple seasons ahead depending on what is grown. Broccoli, for instance, has a spring and an autumn harvest at Happy Hollow, which is some of what was being propagated this week in the greenhouse. Other produce, such as lettuces are continually replenished.

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"We have a lot more that needs to go out for stuff that will be harvested probably starting mid- to late-September and in October and November," Graznak said.

Big crops, such as tomatoes, are planted twice per year. Kale is a crop that is planted upward of five times per year. Other fall and winter crops that will be grown include swiss chard, various root vegetables and other hardier crops that can handle cold weather.

The new acreage will help Graznak grow autumn season vegetables, such as cabbages and brussels sprouts. She also is growing celery on her land in preparation for the fall and Thanksgiving season.

This season has been a difficult one with the drought. Graznak had to take a loan out to dig a new, deeper irrigation well since the one the farm was using dried up. While there has been substantial rain recently, it has basically been a dry season over the last three months, she said.

"We are so many, many inches behind in rain," Graznak said, adding the new well has plenty of water available. "You cannot grow vegetables without water."

Harvests this week included a variety of melons, such as cantaloupe or small watermelons.

Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at [email protected] or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Subscribe to support vital local journalism.