The Future is Not Always a Straight Line
In 2002 two central Ohio women were told of each other. One had farmland, had recently become widowed, and wanted to continue farming. The other had recently been down sized while in a successful management position and experienced the death of her mother who was a third generation farmer, and wanted to start a farm. They met and got to know each other. They explored some possibilities of farming together. They went on with their lives. The widow remarried. The other started a small business. They ran into each other now and then.
In mid-2010, each at different crossroads, these two women got together again. One said if her first husband had not died, she would still be farming. The other said if, as she was growing up, anyone had thought it important to teach her to farm, she would be farming now. They continued to talk for a few months about their current life patterns, their skills, and their common desire to make a difference for women farmers. They inspired each other, mobilized their resources, and formed a business, Women Farm, LLC.
The Mission of Women Farm
These two women decided the business they own would expand the capacity of Ohio women farmers to develop each other in ways that positively impact regional food farming and the conservation and preservation of Ohio farmland. They both value collaboration, diversity, the importance of soil, and female innovation, so these two women decided to become pioneers in experiential training for women farmers.
While they wondered if more resources would be required, they decided to invest what they had, to engage women farmers whom they especially appreciate, and to believe what is available is sufficient to make a difference. They decided to operate lightly, keep travel to a minimum, and be a for-profit business with the heart of a not-for-profit.
Sharon Sachs, PhD, Owner
Sharon Sachs contends that women are essential to the future of regional food farming, and plans to help prepare and develop Ohio women who choose this path. With a 2003 re-entry into agriculture focused on self-education and opportunity exploration, from 2004 – 2008 Sharon managed contracts and farmer education programs for the statewide not-for-profit, Innovative Farmers of Ohio (IFO). Farmer education included a business and professional development program for central Ohio women farmers, regional seminars for Ohio women farmers, and both a pilot program and an outreach project for Ohio beginning farmers. Services were funded by the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, Farm Aid, USDA – North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and national SARE Outreach.
From 2008 – 2010, Sharon served by invitation as a member of the Agricultural Viability Task Force, a work group of the Ohio Food Policy Council. Several times since 2008 she has engaged and represented Ohio women farmers both at conferences of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) and the Ohio State University Farm Science Review. In 2009, guided by what Ohio women farmers said to her during the previous five years, Sharon designed and facilitated a pilot study of and by women farmers, published in 2010 as The Voice of Ohio Women Farmers in Highland County.
An Ohioan since 1977, Sharon was born into a third generation Minnesota farm family, raised by dedicated, successful dairy farmers and around a large extended family of dairy and grain farmers and market gardeners. She is neither naïve nor romantic about farming as an occupation and a business.
Sharon Sachs has been making a difference in the lives of individuals and the central Ohio community since 1978, investing her time in meaningful and life-affirming roles including executive and middle manager, professional consultant, coach, counselor, and adult educator. Her substantial management experience features organizational collaborations, performance-based contracts, volunteer-based service delivery, and outreach to target populations. Sharon designed, delivered, directed, and promoted educational programs for the first 16 of a now 31-year community career management business, growing the services from one to 15 training programs that annually trained 850 individuals and provided information and referrals to 3000 people.
Diverse entities have benefited from her expertise ranging from small businesses to a Fortune 500 corporation, from start-up to large local and statewide not-for-profit organizations, departments within both State and local governments, and many adult women career starters and changers. Sharon has direct experience in multiple industries including employment, career management, philanthropy, health and human services, public administration, utilities, and agriculture.
Janie Marr Werum, Owner
Twenty years before starting Women Farm, Janie Marr put fork to soil and joined the renaissance in organic agriculture. As a certified organic truck farmer and a regional organic inspector for numerous organic certifiers, Janie Marr participated in the growth of both food and respect for the farmers who created it.
Janie Marr was born and raised in Columbus, and, after college, spent two decades working for corporate law firms on Wall Street and for major motion picture companies in Los Angeles administering the legal departments. She found this career unsustainable and not in line with her true values.
In 1994, Janie Marr, her sisters and her mother inherited from her father land in Lithopolis, Ohio, just southeast of Columbus. Janie Marr was in Mississippi, creating acres of oriental eggplants and basil for an artist colony located about 30 miles from Natchez. Each week she sold the unneeded bounty of her crops, hundreds of pounds of eggplants and basil, to restaurants in New Orleans.
In 1995, Janie Marr moved back to the Midwest and, with her late husband, began a certified organic 5-acre market farm on the Lithopolis land. They sold in Columbus at the North Market, to high end restaurants, to Bexley Natural Market, and to Carfagna’s grocery. Thrilled to grow, eat and sell a wide variety of vegetables and flowers and happy in the field, Janie Marr enjoyed her farm business. When Janie Marr’s first husband died, she tried farming alone for several more years but could not find or develop the support needed to continue.
Now an expert in organic certification, with 16 years experience as an inspector, 6 years operating an organic market garden and 3 years as the Coordinator and then Director of a not-for-profit organic certification program, Janie Marr seeks and finds opportunities to demonstrate her commitment to local farmers markets, sustainable farming practices, and organic principles.