Andrea Townsend

Andrea Townsend is a small-scale farmer who operates her quarter-acre farm from her home in Hephzibah, GA. Although her family history is rich with people who dedicated themselves to farming, Andrea dedicated most of her professional adult life to helping people in other ways by working as a nurse. She began farming out of a desire to grow her own food and help people to eat and access healthy organic food. Her initial garden set-up in 2014 included six raised beds, and in 2019, after her retirement from nursing, she began increasing in scale and now has 52 raised beds. Andrea hopes to further expand into her front yard, which would add another quarter-acre to the total productive area.  

Andrea had hoped to purchase a parcel of land to expand production. However, land prices in her area have gone up because of increased population, which has limited her ability to consider that option. She tells a story about a reasonably priced 10-acre piece of land in a residential area that was zoned for agriculture, which she could afford. Another buyer offered more than double the asking price, effectively pricing Andrea out of the opportunity. The new owner then went on to rezone the property.    

Another obstacle Andrea has encountered pertains to scale-appropriate resources that can help with farm planning. She has found that most of the available technical assistance and resources are geared toward larger farms and are prohibitively expensive for her to consider. Consequently, finding assistance to help her organize appropriate documentation for grant applications, organic certifiers, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs, etc., is particularly challenging. One specific example is that NRCS has minimum acreage requirements to be considered for benefits like hoop houses. 

Lack of access to technical knowledge is another barrier for Andrea. She expressed a greater need for all kinds of information pertaining to farming and gardening. She described her struggles in figuring out how to shift her irrigation system to a drip system, which required her to do a lot of her own legwork to figure out a solution to the problem.  

The cost to join groups and get certifications is another challenge—a farm at her scale simply does not have the financial resources. Many of the groups that she would like to join have membership fees that make her involvement all but impossible. Andrea would also like to have her farm certified organic, but the fees are a barrier to making it a reality—it is difficult for her to justify the cost given her level of production and revenue.  

Andrea faces a conundrum of wanting to provide healthy, organic food to her community (many of whom cannot afford the cost) while not wanting to increase prices at the farmers market to compensate for her production costs.  

Andrea is a resilient and positive personality with the desire to continue learning, experimenting, and connecting with community members. She continues resiliently forward with what she has: a small property and an eagerness to expand through innovation and seeking knowledge. 

Andrea Townsend, a Georgia farmerAndrea went back to school, earning her AA in horticulture at a local college. She also furthered her practical exposure to farming through an internship at Browns Organic Farm. One of the most important aspects of Andrea’s farming journey is her relationship with the community around her. She continues to cultivate relationships with mentors; not only are they assisting her with technical information, but they have also formed an unofficial buyer cooperative through which they purchase certain farm supplies in bulk with three other farmers to reduce costs. She further serves her local community through two organizations: Augusta Locally Grown, which aims to build a supportive community for farmers and increase food access in food deserts; and Growing Augusta, which hosts webinars and hands-on experiences and provides food to food deserts. The members of Growing Augusta collaborate to help each other on farm projects. Andrea said that this sort of participation has increased her confidence because she knows she has a community of knowledgeable people who can help with information and technical assistance, and it also serves to share information and expand learning through hands-on activity. Growing Augusta received a grant to create the Soul to Soil Concert series that brings people together on farms to build community, learn about farming, and listen to music.  

The bulk of Andrea’s current marketing effort is selling at three farmers’ markets and opening her garden to the public. She has experimented with various crops to cater to community needs, and she visits local markets and grocery stores to see what is being sold in the areas that she is considering.  

Andrea implemented two notable innovations: converting her yard from a sprinkler to a drip system with a manifold to fertigate, which reduced water use and powdery mildew; and constructing her own hoop house from PVC and recycled materials, since purchasing one was too expensive. As a beginning farmer, Andrea believes she would have benefited from a farm mentorship (internship/farm incubator) earlier in her farming career, which would have helped her smooth out some of the bumps she encountered and allowed her to make more informed installations and purchases. 

Going forward, Andrea hopes to purchase a refrigeration unit to preserve unsold products and reduce food waste, and to develop the skills necessary to plan seeding and harvest. She also hopes to add chickens and convert her greenhouse to a propagation and seeding area. In all, Andrea sees her farm as a success with lots of potential. Her desire to be an integral part of the community and help those around her is an inspiration for any beginning farmer.