PLYMOUTH — Emily Allen-Smith says her family’s farm is one-of-a-kind.
“Our farm does not look like any farm you’ve ever seen, I can promise you that,” the 32-year-old said.
Nestled in the village of Plymouth at 7586 Bowman Street Rd., the Odd Sprout Farm is a culmination of Emily’s gardening hobby that literally grew and grew. What started as a small garden just outside the family's home on their one-acre yard has evolved and expanded into a two-acre farm with an estimated 300 varieties of produce.
The certified naturally grown farm grows unique and heirloom produce, greens, and microgreens, featuring a wide selection of items that aren’t typically stocked at the grocery store, such as cucamelons and purple carrots.
“I love seeds with story, seeds with history,” said Emily, who’s been gardening since age 4 and spends at least a month in the winter combing through seed catalogues in search of seeds to plant.
“I have old favorites, but every year I like to try something new,” she said.
Emily, her husband, Ron, and son, Weston, moved to the property where the farm is located in 2012. For Emily it was love at first sight.
“I decided I was moving into this house before even walking into it,” she said. “I didn’t even care what it looked like. I loved the property.”
When designing their farm, they incorporated both edible landscaping and permaculture techniques. Without a tractor at their disposal, they do most of the work by hand or with the help of a wheel hoe.
They began selling produce at farmers markets in 2017, starting with the Shelby Farmers Market. At that time, both Emily and Ron had full-time jobs in addition to managing the farm. Emily said their farmers market profits were essentially “fun money.”
“Half the time we went and blew it at The Vault (Wine Bar) afterwards,” she said.
Fast forward to 2019, Ron now manages the farm full-time and Emily, who used to work for the American Red Cross, is now focused fully on farming, both with her family farm, as well as The Ohio State Mansfield Microfarm. Emily works part-time as the microfarm administration and communications coordinator.
Last year Odd Sprout sold at three farmers markets, “which was absolute insanity,” Emily said laughing. This year they can regularly be found at the Holy Trinity Farmers Market and sometimes at the Shelby Farmers Market. Be sure to check the farm’s Facebook page to follow where and when they are selling.
The farm also supplies produce for local restaurants, including City Garden Cafe, Doc’s Deli and more recently, Hudson and Essex.
“We’re willing to work with people locally,” Emily said. “We want local food to become available, and we’ve spent the last two years proving that a small farm can supply some things regularly, all year-round.”
They’ve also been able to help bolster the accessibility of local produce with their produce packs.
“The $10-bags started out as a way to move leftover produce after markets,” Emily said. “When we were doing the one Saturday market, and didn’t really have any other outlets for our produce, I would basically take everything that was left from the Saturday market and divide them up into bags and advertise them to people.”
This will be their third year to offer these $10-grab-and-go bags, which include “way more than $10-worth of produce,” Emily said.
“While the $10-bags are not as much leftovers anymore, because I hardly ever have leftovers from market, they are things that I have small assortments of, so not all of the bags are always the same either.”
They’ve started selling their produce packs to local businesses' employees. Emily said their current focus is businesses in and around downtown Mansfield, though they intend to expand their reach.
“It’s convenient if you bring it to their workplace where they already are, and they don’t have to get out early to go to the farmers market, and they don’t have to worry about the price of it because it’s always going to be the same,” Emily said.
Promoting local food
“I’ve been championing local food for a really long time now,” said Emily, who’s excited to see efforts that support the local food movement pick up speed.
This includes the OSU-Mansfield Microfarm, which was recently awarded a $2 million grant to launch an urban sustainable food system project that will increase access to fruits, vegetables and other specialty crops, while supporting the local economy.
Growing a better local food system feels achievable now, she said.
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“It feels like all of these dreams and things people have been talking about and the systems to support it is now being supported by Ohio State, NECIC, Braintree, and all of these other great local partners who are behind this, not just from a local food perspective, but from a people perspective.
“They want to solve joblessness, they want to solve problems with the underemployed or felons who have a hard time getting jobs anywhere else, and they want to empower those people by owning their own small businesses and having them participate in a co-op where their work is valued locally and they’re getting a fair price for what they grow.”
Emily believes there’s a growing interest in the community for local food, and she’s happy to help meet that demand — that includes in partnership with other local farms.
“I want all of the local farms around here to succeed and do well,” she said. “My competition is places like Meijer and Kroger and Walmart.”
Odd Sprout partners with the Hidden Acres Farm in Mansfield for special events.
“The idea was to collaborate rather than compete,” Emily said. “We use their meat for most of our events and they use our vegetables. We also try to incorporate other local products like ciders, wines and baked goods — whatever we can find locally we try to use (for the events).”