Curtis Millsap could talk about farming all day long.
It’s the path he chose after jobs as a contractor, teacher, whitewater raft guide, sign maker and handyman, among others. He and his wife Sarah purchased a 20-acre farm at 6593 N. Emu Lane in 2007 and began farming full-time the next year through the creation of Millsap Farms LLC.
“Our primary workplace is outside in the open,” Millsap says.
His passion for agriculture grew out of a love of the outdoors and a calling to work with young people.
“As we started our family and became a little more rooted, farming seemed to be the right way to go forward and still honor that call of youth in the outdoors,” says Millsap, who has 10 children. “Even beyond the service aspect, we both just love being outside.”
On the property north of Springfield is a two-acre parcel devoted to vegetables – Millsap Farms’ bread and butter. The remainder comprises his house, buildings, a parking lot, woods, ponds and pastures.
Millsap says the farm sells about $170,000 in produce annually – from around 40 types of vegetables and some 230 varieties.
“If you eat it and it’s a vegetable, I probably grow it,” he says. “We grow a wide selection: asparagus to zucchini and everything in between.”
The bulk of sales, at 60 percent, comes from the farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program. With 150 members during the summertime, trust is the name of the game for the CSA. Customers commit up-front to purchase produce before it’s grown, in turn receiving first rights to the finished products.
“They allow us to make long-term environmental decisions about soil health and water quality,” Millsap says. “It’s a beautiful thing, because we have that security of knowing they’re committed to us.
“The more important value is they are making the connection to a local farm.”
About 10-15 percent of sales come from restaurants and professional kitchens, such as those at University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center and Hilton Garden Inn, and the rest is made at farmers markets.
Agritourism also is an important aspect of Millsap Farms, helping to build a community and buzz around the property. It’s showcased weekly for Pizza Club, when people flock for fresh pies cooked in wood-fired earthen ovens, live music and nature. Millsap says Pizza Club has around 3,000 members and about 250 people attend on Thursdays May through October.
“People come out to the farm not just to purchase food, but also to experience a different way of life,” he says.
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