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Marble Valley Farm to start the new season with changes

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KENT – There are many changes happening at Marble Valley Farm as the farmers prepare for spring. The organic farm is located off Route 7 on property owned by the Kent Land Trust.

Marble Valley Farm owner Megan Haney, right, with Sarah Lang, the farm manager, harvesting some kale from the greenhouse. Photo by Lynn Mellis Worthington

Longtime farmer Megan Haney announced in December 2023 that she was preparing to retire and she has arranged for Sarah Lang to take over as the new farmer. This year Haney is still the one in charge and Lang is assisting, but they are acting as partners in planning new initiatives, including securing grants for equipment and operating the farm.

One of the new technology initiatives will be an automatic Point of Sale (POS) system that will allow shoppers to pay for their farm stand products.

“It will be as close as possible to a self-serve checkout at a supermarket but will be simpler with the amount of items,” Haney said. All of the items in the farm stand will be depicted on a screen that should make it much easier for those shopping. Payment will be using a debit or credit card, Apple Pay, PayPal, as well as the farm’s own gift cards or “loyalty cards.” Cash and checks will continue to be accepted as well.

The farm is implementing “loyalty cards” that will be for CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members who have pre-paid for the season and each week’s amount will be deducted from their balance. Haney stopped offering a CSA because it wasn’t working financially for her as the farmer, but she and Lang have made adjustments.

“People will pay $500 and we load the card with $525,” Haney explained. There will be a number of perks this year for the CSA members.

“We’re going to do no-cost, you-pick herbs,” said Lang. There will also be you-pick flowers at 50 percent of retail value. Flowers are harder to grow, she explained.

Members will also receive an email blast notice earlier than the general public when the farm receives special items from other farms, such as strawberries and sweet corn. Application for the CSA loyalty program will be announced in early April.

The other program with the loyalty cards will be to benefit food-insecure households in Kent.

“If you’re food insecure and you meet the eligibility, we will give you a card pre-loaded with $100 and all you have to do is come down and spend it,” Haney said. She promised there would be training for anyone who is concerned about using the technology.

The farm has partnered with the Kent Land Trust on a Food Security Initiative for the past three years to offer more than 40 shares of fresh-picked produce each week to families using the Kent Food Bank. Food will continue to be shared with the food bank. Anyone interested in supporting with a donation can contribute online to KLT.

“This way we’ll have this extra dimension for those people who can’t make it to the Food Bank on Friday mornings. There will be greater choice and greater access because they can come any day of the week,” Haney said. “It also won’t be so obvious who is food insecure and using a loyalty card. That is huge for us because it will minimize the stigma.”

There is also a program in partnership with Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of Connecticut and KLT in which there will be reduced-cost CSA shares for 25 qualified participants who will pay $25 and receive $100 value on their loyalty card.  

All of the loyalty cards can be used to purchase anything sold at the farm stand, including eggs, sustainably-raised meat and honey/maple syrup.

The two farmers applied for and received a number of grants and there are more in progress. One from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture is targeted at “farm transition” to usher in a new era of sustainability. Farm visitors will notice new equipment, including coolers, as well as high and low tunnels protecting plants and the soil in the fields.

Haney began farming the land in 2007 and she named it Marble Valley because it sits in the Marble Valley, an ancient deposit of marble (compressed limestone) running from Canaan to Ridgefield. The farm’s soil type, a silt loam, is highly suited to vegetable cultivation.

Haney will retire next year and turn the farm over to Lang. The two met 12 years ago and they have forged a bond, staying in touch over the years.

“I through-hiked the Appalachian Trail two years ago and stayed three nights,” Lang said, adding it was a great opportunity to rest and harvest garlic.

When Lang had some difficulties landing her next farm job last year, Haney invited her to rejoin her crew.

“It is nice to have prolonged this transition because it’s an enjoyment to have two heads better than one for the first time,” Haney said. “Sarah’s work ethic is through the roof—honesty, integrity, graphic design and produce display skills. She understands every peeve I have about farming because they might be similar to her peeves, but there’s a complementarity, too.”

She feels confident leaving the farm in such great hands.

“It makes me feel I’ll be happier leaving the farm because there’s a stronger sense of legacy for me,” Haney said.

Lynn Worthington
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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Deb Schlee

    March 21, 2024 at 9:35 pm

    Great article!! Interesting changes. Meghan seems too young to retire.

  2. Avatar

    Stephanie Raftery

    March 22, 2024 at 9:34 am

    These are exciting updates! C’mon spring!!!

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