Meet the Martins.
THREE CHURCHES, W.Va. – Steve and Ruth Martin are a part of a growing trend in West Virginia: the sustainable farm. However, despite it’s new popularity, nothing about this type of farming is new.
“A lot of things that are new movements are really back in time – back to the family farmstead where people raised for themselves most of what they could consume, except for some basic commodities,” Steve said. “So it’s getting back to that.”
The two started the farm in 2004, retiring from their government jobs and settling near Three Churches, which is 10 miles from Romney.
The couple chose to create a sustainable farm, or a farm that produces food without causing unalterable damage to the land and environment.
According to Steve, sustainable agriculture practices include “minimizing and hopefully eliminating the use of any insecticides, pesticides as well as fungicides.”
This isn’t the only unusual aspect of Church View Farm; it’s also thriving as a small business.
“We’re on the suburban fringe, or the exurban fringe,” Steve said. “We have local customers, of course, during the week, and then people that come up on the weekends, like we used to.”
The Martins helped revive the Romney Farmers Market, providing an uncommon variety of crops and goods. In addition to providing those choices, the Martins take pride in offering competitive prices.
“We’re on that fringe where people are coming from Baltimore, Washington, and with a more disposable income,” Steve said. “They’re our customers, and it really helps the area and helps our farm.”
They also use their Web site and blog to market their products to outside customers.
“The blog is a really convenient way to give everyone a status during the season on what we’re going to have at the market,” Steve said.
Steve and Ruth like writing about the benefits of sustainable farming.
“People would love to shop local,” Steve said. “It’s kind of a back to the-future thing – people would love to have somebody deliver their fresh produce right to their door in their small town.”
From raspberries to lamb and poultry, honey to lip balm, all of the farm’s products share one attribute: They are born from sustainable ideals.
“The main goal is just to produce healthy products in a way that doesn’t harm the land,” Steve said. “Always be conscious of the fact that as you’re producing food and as you’re producing things from the farm, that you’re using resources, and those have to be replaced.”
According to Steve, people come looking for businesses like Church View Farm when they are tired of the products provided by corporate grocery chains.
“I think it’s clear now that industrial food makes people sick,” Steve said. “Not only the toxins, but all the health alerts and all the recalls; I think basically a lot that’s produced by the industrial system simply makes people sick. And those are our customers – they’re looking for something fresher and better, and something that will be healthy for them.”
Even living off of their own farm, the Martins have to think like “consumers” and “producers.”
“I like to know where my food comes from, and I like to know that it’s fresh and that it’s chemical-free. I like living here and doing what we do because you can be as creative as you want to be and it really makes you feel like you’re one with nature,” Ruth said.
And though they deal all over the area, one of the couple’s most rewarding experiences takes place within the Romney Farmers Market itself.
“We really get a thrill when people get some fresh tomatoes at the market and then they’re there when the market opens the following week looking for more,” Steve said. “That’s what it’s all about for us.”