Community Supported Agriculture is a farming model that encourages producers and consumers to share the risks of farming, where members purchase shares of goods before the growing season begins. It allows farmers to cover upfront costs while accurately planning for the growing season by planting the appropriate amount of each crop for members.
Delaware County’s Over the Moon Farms — located between Ryan and Coggon just off of Highway 13 — is a local CSA with the primary focus on cut flowers as the business readies for its second full season of operation.
Owners Shea Pesek and Anna Hankins come from different backgrounds, with Pesek growing up on the family farm in Delaware County where she was heavily involved in 4-H and FFA before attending college at San Diego State University. Hankins is an East Coast native who studied agriculture at the University of Massachusetts before falling in love with Iowa during a visit that eventually extended to three years, at Local Harvest CSA, near Solon.
The CSA model is becoming more common and finding greater popularity in the region, said Pesek.
“We work with a lot of other CSAs in the area — small vegetable farms. We sell a lot of our products through their CSAs. We’re active with the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and they help us with some of the marketing,” Pesek said. “We like to focus on women in the area who make the purchasing choices for their families. We’re just focusing on the local customer who is looking for food that’s grown locally and of high quality — something different than you get in a supermarket.”
Pesek and Hankins make use of technology along with the tried and true method of building a solid reputation through relationships with clients to market their goods.
“A lot of it is just social media. Anna does all of our social media and that’s where we’ve gained a lot of our followers,” said Pesek. “Also, I’m born and raised in the area and there’s word of mouth with folks I’ve known for years and years. People have been really supportive and have helped spread the word.”
Over the Moon enjoyed a solid first season in the flower business and looks to expand the operation in coming seasons.
“Primarily we’re doing the 16-week flower share where you get the bouquet once a week,” said Pesek in a phone interview. “Last year was our first official year, so it was primarily flowers. We’re expanding a lot of the sweet corn, pork and eggs for the coming season. We bought a bunch more hens and we’re going to be doing more eggs and also more pork. As we grow we’re going to be expanding into other enterprises.”
Over the Moon is unique in its offering of locally grown flowers, and partners with other CSAs in the area to reach more consumers.
“No one is really growing this quantity of cut flowers in the area. There’s not a ton of cut flowers grown in Iowa in general,” Pesek said. “We’re growing the flowers in Delaware County and doing everything in Delaware County.
“We work a lot with Buffalo Ridge Orchard in Central City. They are a well-established apple orchard and have dedicated customers. We’re offering our flowers through their CSA so their customers can add our flowers to their vegetable and apple shares. It’s been very helpful to work along with other CSAs.”
During the growing season, you’ll find Pesek and Hankins on the road meeting the needs of their customers.
“We’ve been doing a lot of delivery with the pandemic, and it’s worked really well to just drop off to folks directly. We come to Manchester twice a week during the summer and make the rounds in the Coggon and Central City areas and make our way to Delhi. We do a big loop,” Pesek said. “The pandemic has changed our delivery methods, but maybe in the future, we’ll try some farmers markets or a couple of pop-up shops. We’re in the planning stage for that for next summer. You’ll see us all over.”
Look for Over the Moon to continue expanding its footprint in the area, with a focus in Delaware County.
“We’re planning on growing. With the support we’ve seen so far I think it’s doable for us. We’re excited about the local support from businesses and community members,” said Pesek.