Niche Market: Small-Scale Farmers

Mansfield News Journal:

Dave Ernst earned certified organic farming status this summer — the culmination of several years of careful preparation and scrupulous record-keeping.

Ernst, who is in his early 30s, tends to garden beds brimming with tomatoes, Swiss chard, garlic and other produce on land owned by Carolyn Bricker, his grandmother, off Ohio 96 east of Shelby.

While the biggest growth in U.S. agriculture has been in very large-scale farms — above 5,000 acres — Ernst is among those bucking the trend, joining a niche market of small-scale farmers in the growing “locavore” trend.

He focuses intensively on relatively limited acreage, producing vegetables he sells at four farmers markets in the area to local residents who enjoy browsing for heirloom-variety fruits and vegetables that often can’t be found in groceries.

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