Meet a farmer: How Shanti Sellz works to make fresh food accessible

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Zak Neumann/Little Village

Located down a rolling gravel road just about eight miles west of Iowa City is Muddy Miss Farms at Walker Homestead, where farmer Shanti Sellz grows vegetables for her 22-week CSA share. The season begins in early May and continues through October, when her members regularly visit the farm to pick up a weekly supply of vegetables.

“I know our customers have appreciated the relationship to where their food is being grown and having access to it,” said Sellz of her farm. “I want people there, I want them to be a part of it.”

Those who visit Muddy Miss Farms can also explore Walker Homestead, the 85-acre plot of land on which Sellz’s farm sits along with a growing orchard, vineyard and winery, and an agriculture education and celebration center. When members come to pick up their shares, Sellz invites them to have a glass of wine and watch the sun set.

Last year, Sellz was awarded the 2018 Woman in Sustainable Agriculture Award for her work as a farmer, as well as as an advocate for food access. Joining a CSA is a big commitment to a seasonal way of eating, and Sellz hopes to make her own vegetables more accessible to those who may feel hesitant to become CSA members. While members traditionally pay upfront, Sellz said she is happy to arrange payment plans with families. This year she will present a handful of “work-for-share options,” which offers those who may have limited financial resources a weekly share in exchange for volunteer hours.

“I know a CSA is not necessarily accessible to everyone, and I want to support anyone who wants to make that commitment and needs to make it work for their budget,” Sellz said.

Sellz also encourages members to split shares with other individuals or families to lighten the load, picking up a share every other week. Because local produce is not spending a week or two in transit across the country, it can hold that much longer in the refrigerator.

“Everything that you’re getting from our farm, unless it’s a storage crop [such as cabbage or potatoes], has been picked within a day or two,” said Sellz.

Sellz is also a regular fixture of the Iowa City Farmers Market, with in-season offerings on colorful display for those passing through. But becoming a regular CSA member is the most direct way community members can support farms, said Sellz. “It’s the epitome of putting your money where your mouth is.”

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