Charles City, Virginia
Amy and George turned their small home garden hobby into a living.
Back in 1998, Amy Hicks was a waitress and George Ferguson was a Class-B home builder living in Richmond, Virginia, with a small home garden. George was building houses in New Kent County so the couple decided they didn’t want to live in the city anymore and made a move to the country. Farm Credit first helped them with the purchase of a home and ambitious three-acre hobby garden.
“From the beginning, Colonial Farm Credit has been easy to work with,” said Amy about their relationship with Farm Credit and her loan officer, Susan Upshaw. Amy and George started selling their organic vegetables on a small scale and after positive feedback and success with their hobby garden, they decided it was time to expand and turn farming into a living. Once again, Farm Credit was their lender of choice.
Taking a risk
In 2009, Amy and George purchased a 70-acre historic farm property known as Rural Shades in Charles City County, Virginia. “Being a non-subsidized, organic farm and purchasing a second property during the recession, other lenders just wouldn’t have understood the risk, so we appreciate what Farm Credit is doing and the support they have for this industry,” said Amy.
They currently farm 10 to 12 acres, on which they produce a variety of organic vegetables, small fruits and fresh-cut flowers. Their main source of revenue currently comes from selling at three farmer's markets in Richmond and one in Williamsburg. They also have their own Community Supported Agriculture program, called Amy’s Garden CSA, which has been growing strong since 2003 and is the only Certified Organic CSA option in the area. Customers buy into the farm at the start of the growing season and in exchange receive a share of the farm’s harvest each week from mid-May through mid-September.
Looking to the future
When asked what the future holds for their operation, Amy states “we want to stay at the size we are and get better and more efficient with less waste.” They like the size they are at and what they currently do because she feels they are constantly being challenged and learning more. “We always know Farm Credit is there if we need access to capital. We also appreciate their support of our markets, since it’s how we do what we do.”
Because of her great experiences, Amy is a passionate cheerleader for Farm Credit. “I was just a city girl and didn’t know anything about farm financing, so I try and tell young and small farmers about Farm Credit every chance I get.”