MVT Spotlight: Jarrah Cernas, Chicano Sol Farm

Thursday April 16, 2015

The Mount Vernon Triangle FRESHFARM Farm Stand is set to open on Saturday, May 16th – kicking off the 2nd year for this wonderful organic source of fresh food and produce. The MVT Farm Stand is sole sourced by Chicano Sol, a certified organic, small, family-owned farm in Blain, PA. Many of you met Jarrah Cernas last year as she worked the market. We asked her to share some insights on the farm and what we can expect in this year’s Farm Stand.

MVT CID: Jarrah, tell us a bit about how you came to own and manage Chicano Sol?

Jarrah: My husband, Agustin, and I, met and worked on another organic farm together. When we purchased our farm we still were employed full time there. We wanted to do something with our newly purchased farm, so we began raising pastured poultry. At the time, the farm was our “child”, and as Agustin is from Mexico, and myself here in the U.S., we decided on Chicano, and Sol, means sun in Spanish. About two weeks after we decide on the name, we found out we were expecting our first, real baby, Austin, who is now 5. After Austin was born, the extreme number of hours required, at the farm where we met, pushed us towards expanding our own family farm towards are true passion, and background, organic produce. We also have another son now, Evin who will be 3 in May!

MVT CID: The Farm Stand enjoyed strong support from the MVT community last year – anything new you can share that will be added to the Farm Stand this year?

Jarrah: We are often thinking of what could make the FRESHFARM Farm Stand better for everyone, farmer and locavore included. There are some laws that play in this decision process. We hope to add some more value added products, possibly try kettle corn, from a local, and different types of small portion items from our local bakery. We would also like to expand on the cheese. We are always open to any suggestions from our customers; we value your opinions as much as our own; after all you are the ones shopping there. You can email us here at the farm if there is something you would like us to try and source,

MVT CID: Can you explain the term Certified Organic and how it affects the way you grow at your farm?

Jarrah: Certified Organic means that we do not use synthetic fertilizers or sprays on our produce. We do not use any harsh chemicals to kill weeds or use treated seeds that our resistant to those harsh sprays and chemicals. When we have weeds growing, we get on our hands and knees and crawl down the row or use a hoe on the easier jobs. We eat what we grow, our children eat what we grow, often right off the vine/plant; we don’t want to have to worry about anything foreign on our food. We want to leave our corner of the earth the same, if not better, than when we found it. 

MVT CID: What do you enjoy most about operating a farm and selling at markets?

Jarrah: Family! Life on the farm is often nonstop from about mid-March through mid-December. Our farm is small enough that we can take an extra 20 minutes at lunch and go for a swim. We might have to work 20 minutes longer at the end of the day, but no worries. Friends! Our goal, from the day we began farming for ourselves, was to sell as direct to the consumer as possible. The best way for us to do that is selling at market. The great part about market is the connection you make with the people eating our food.  It is so rewarding to have someone come and say, “Your greens keep forever”, and, “Your veggies taste so much better than the ones from the store.” It assures us we are doing something right. And after attending a market for a few years, you and your customers develop friendships, you watch their families grow. It is almost as if they are extended next door neighbors.

MVT CID: What is your favorite time of year/favorite foods that you bring to market?

Jarrah: My favorite time of year is fall. You still have the summer peppers, tomatoes and squash and meanwhile the kales, broccolis, winter squashes are coming in too. It is a great time of year to eat local food.  My favorites are kale, peaches, sun gold cherry tomatoes, any kind of berry, spinach …I could just go on and on!

MVT CID: What’s something that you wish more people knew about your industry?

Jarrah: Farming is more than a job, it is a lifestyle. It is hard. When you decide to become farmer, you must give all of yourself, and hold nothing back. There are sacrifices, and rewards, like no sick days, and chores every day, and missing the family cook out on the 4th of July, because the squash had to be picked. The rewards of eating the best possible food there is, being with your kids all the time and teaching them about life on the farm…life in general, many a lessons can be learned on the farm on any given day. The rewards win in the end though; I’m a farmer by choice and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

MVT CID: Thank you, Jarrah!