Most farmers have interesting stories about how they made the journey to farming. Kelsey Jones, Lyle Marotz, and their baby, Phoenix, are no different.
They are in their third year of marketing farming and raising vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers on Source Farms just north of Norfolk in Hoskins, Nebraska.
They found their way to the land that used to be home to a dairy farm run by Lyle’s family via teaching English in Southeast Asia and earning degrees in finance and business management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“Source Farms is experimental, focused on greens and a wide variety of vegetables, and seeks to inspire plant-based eating,” Kelsey said.
She and Lyle raise more than 200 tomato plants, long beans, Mohawk pole beans, sunflowers, basil, elderberries, blackberries, pumpkins, kale, Tahitian melons, and more on about one-third of an acre of land.
Lyle is “full force with the vegetables,” and Kelsey focuses on herbs that help support women’s health.
Together, they want to provide equitable access to produce in communities where fresh, seasonal produce is lacking. This vision led them to connect with restaurants like Juju’s Vegan Cajun and Creole Cuisine and Pepe’s Bistro in Lincoln. Source Farms also regularly attends the farmers market in Norfolk, where they have built relationships.
“Initially, they did not know how to receive us,” Kelsey said of their rural community.
Over time, they have built relationships with people who became repeat customers at the farmers market and who support their work. Kelsey said she’s gained important insights for fellow beginning farmers, in particular, Black women farmers.
“Be consistent,” she said. “Show up and take up space. Enter into the space you deserve to be in. Share about who you are. It is a matter of time; let people live into the initial discomfort.”
She also highlighted the need for farmers to have educational, networking, and community-building opportunities.
“The networking piece is so important,” Kelsey said. “It gives you hope that you are not alone, you can grow together in that way.”
The Center for Rural Affairs is dedicated to supporting young, beginning farmers of color by developing programming to empower future generations of farmers like Source Farms. Find Source Farms on Facebook (Source Farms) and Instagram (@sourcefarms_ ). Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.