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Curtis Millsap says 150 summer CSA members drive business at Millsap Farms.
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
Curtis Millsap says 150 summer CSA members drive business at Millsap Farms.

Community leads to profits at Millsap Farms

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Through Millsap Farms LLC, owner Curtis Millsap runs a venture bolstered by Community Supported Agriculture north of Springfield.

Around 150 summer members — with 75 in the winter months — support the CSA, which gives customers first rights to produce before it’s grown and Millsap Farms a steady income stream.

“I have that stability of a customer base,” Millsap said, noting membership has remained “pretty stable.”

“They are invested in what we do,” he added. “That gives us operation capital, which is huge.”

Speaking this morning as Springfield Business Journal’s monthly guest for the 12 People You Need to Know live interview series, Millsap said the CSA supports about 70 percent of Millsap Farms’ roughly $200,000 in annual revenue. On the back of that revenue, the farm is profitable.

“It is profitable — not nearly as profitable as we’d like,” he said, noting he and his wife, co-owner Sarah Millsap, drew about $36,000 in salaries last year and paid a full-time employee. “We’ve been able to pay ourselves for the last 10 years.”

At 6593 N. Emu Lane, 2 acres of the 20-acre farm are set aside for some 100 varieties of produce.

‘Farming crisis’
Curtis Millsap, a proponent of the outdoors, sees his role at Millsap Farms as bridging the gap between the old and new generations of farmers.

“Farmland is starting to be in the hands of fewer and fewer people, and those people are aging,” he said, pointing to industry statistics showing the average farmer’s age is around 60 or older. “So, how is that transition going to happen?”

Millsap, 42, provides outdoor experiences for young people through Millsap Farms, including summer farm camps, internships and apprenticeships.

“We see it as the work that, in the long term, is going to turn the boat around on farming,” he said. “We need more farmers. For the most part, they’re going to have to come from outside the farm world.”

Millsap’s philosophy is driven by what he calls a “farming crisis” in the U.S.

Smaller producers have been squeezed out of the market as expenses rise and sales slow. As a byproduct, corporate farms have taken over, and since these operations are often in less populated areas, a disconnect has been created between people and their food.

“Milk and egg prices have stagnated for the past 50 years,” Millsap said. “Farmers’ trucks, their prices have not stabilized. No business can survive that … so it’s a deadly sandwich that we’re in.”

That’s where Millsap Farms and other urban farms come in, providing experiences to those with little to no knowledge of the industry and connecting people with their food again.

“We’re very trendy. I really think it’s a symptom of this need to connect,” Millsap said.

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