Local farm seeks creative avenues to reach customers

By Katie Demeria

NEW MARKET — Charles and Anna Long, of Long Roots Farm, understand the true cost of food. They are trying to educate the public about it as well.

The Longs began renting 150 acres of land about a year ago — they got their first sheep in April of 2013.

Currently supporting grass-fed cows and sheep, along with chickens and turkeys, Charles Long said he and his wife try to farm in a way that allows the land to remain healthy.

Like many farmers in the Shenandoah Valley, the Longs would like to make a living solely by working their farm — but right now it cannot support them. Charles Long, 35, works on his family’s farm, also in New Market, and Anna Long, 34, is an intensive in-home therapist.

They both understand that the way in which to make the transition to working solely as farmers is by marketing themselves.

“It’s about getting the word out and educating our customers and potential customers,” Charles Long said. “You have to come up with different avenues for sales.”

While the locally grown food movement is becoming increasingly popular, it is not easy for farmers to reach their customers, despite the demand on the market, Charles Long pointed out.

Long Roots Farm communicates with their customers largely through their Facebook page, but Charles Long said they are going to try alternate routes, as well.

They plan on opening a roadside stand in New Market within the next few weeks as a way to tap into one of those alternate routes.

Even the current markets open to farmers, according to Charles Long, such as the typical farmers market, are limited.

“We don’t sell at any farmers markets now,” he said. “We don’t have enough volume, and we do so much of the same thing that other farmers, great farmers, do. They’ve been in it five or six years now, they’ve got it down, and it would just be direct competition, trying to sell side-by-side. So we want to take other avenues.”

“We don’t want to take away from what they’re doing. We want to add to what farmers in the valley are already doing,” he added.

Creating their own roadside stand and marketing through social media, the Longs said, allow them to make their own schedule, one that works for both them and the customer.

Being available to their customers is very important, they pointed out, as is educating them about the importance of eating locally grown, healthier food.

“It’s a lifestyle,” Anna Long said.

Part of the difficulty of making locally grown food available, Charles Long said, is a lack of land. His cows are grass fed, so he moves his herd from pasture to pasture routinely — it is a practice, he said, that helps the land thrive.

But land is not always readily available for farms like Long Roots Farm.

Many, he added, may say that governmental subsidies favor big business farming rather than family farms. But he pointed out that consumers run the market — if more people demanded meat like that that comes from Long Roots, the market would change.

“Be interested in what you’re eating,” he said. “Whether it’s from us or another farm or just a healthier source than what is so readily available — just be more interested in what you’re putting into your body.”

Visit Long Roots Farm’s website at http://www.longrootsfarm.com.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com