Originally from Philadelphia, Cetta Barnhart became a transplant to Monticello, Florida, after attending Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University and meeting her husband. Cetta is the owner and operator of Seed Time Farm Harvest, an online CSA that she started for people in her community who did not have access to good, healthy food. Cetta shared that the driving force to maintain her business was the community expressing their gratitude to her for providing fresh produce. Otherwise, she said, she would not be farming.
She has a relationship with Florida Agriculture Mechanical University through owning and operating one of the institution’s demonstration sites. Through the University, she was able to obtain an irrigation system and grow food with basic organic practices. She also expresses joy for having seven growing towers, which adds to what she has growing in the field. Cetta and her family grow tomatoes, broccoli, collard greens, cabbage, and some exotic fruits and vegetables. She observed that a lot of health issues and concerns that we currently have are the result of straying from our diets of origin.
Cetta believes in good food produced through best practices for natural growing. Some practices she says, “she learned from elders.” She uses a no-till method but says it can be challenging at times not having access to equipment in a timely manner, and she also uses the harrowing method. With best practices in mind, Cetta is intentional about networking with other local farmers who have similar or the same practices to provide the community with the best products. She has extended her education in growing through training, such as growing citrus and product development, and making tonics to sell through her CSA.
Her biggest challenges in farming are being equipped and marketing. She advocates that fresh, local produce is best for our body because produce in stores is not local and comes from places far away, reducing its freshness. She also expressed that farmers should be knowledgeable in contacting local USDA offices by knowing what questions to ask. The one thing she wishes she knew more about at the beginning of her farming career is the business side of farming, but also about best practices and methods for a successful harvest. Cetta saw a need for healthy, fresh, and locally sourced foods versus fast food and says that is what encouraged her to change.
Cetta says the CSA that she owns and operates is one of the biggest networks of farmers that she is a part of and that other institutions, like her alma mater FAMU and University of Florida, are also networks that she is proud to be a part of, as they have been very helpful to her farming career and business. Universities and nonprofits have been the most beneficial relationships in her career because they play intricate roles in growing and sustaining healthy communities.
There is a need for knowing farmers in the area and Cetta says that there should be a local farmer marketing campaign. Success, Cetta said, is when your income exceeds your needs and when coordination of services makes a successful farm. She also mentioned that when local farmers are thriving and communities are becoming more knowledgeable about their health and acting on it by eating healthy food makes her feel like she’s doing a good job. Consumer education is one of the greatest barriers to successful farming, Cetta said, because if people are not knowledgeable about what to eat and where to get fresh, healthy foods, then food goes to waste.
A word to the wise, Cetta says: “Grow something, because you need to learn how to sustain yourself, and get to know your local producers.”