Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives
Farm Credit 100 Fresh Perspectives

Melissa Mellinger
Farmer and Farm Manager, True Vine Farm

Strasburg, Pennsylvania
Farm Credit Affiliation
MidAtlantic Farm Credit
Melissa's Perspective

In the spring of 2014, after a plant research internship in South Africa, Melissa Mellinger returned home eager to start a new venture: True Vine Farm CSA. A community supported agriculture farm, or CSA, offers fresh, local food memberships to nearby consumers.

Purchased in 2007 as an aging wine grape vineyard, she guided the family farm goals into new territory with her passion for educating others in healthy eating and sustainability. Aging vines were removed and replaced with vegetables and fruit. Gradually adding chickens, sheep and turkey, as well as hosting an occasional wedding, have provided sustainability for the future of the farm.

“The process of creating an environment and business in which both hope and high-quality food are entwined is not a simple one, but I believe it to be the most rewarding of jobs,” says Melissa, qualifying that “I cannot view farming as only a job – it is a way of life. Energy overflows from the process of creating, growing, learning and sharing.”

In the CSA’s first year, members were able to choose their weekly produce. With the addition of several community farms in 2015, wider vegetable varieties, fruit, eggs, goat cheese, yogurt and flowers were added. The CSA distributes a newsletter with recipes encouraging inclusion of new foods in family meals and listing local upcoming events. To encourage membership, True Vine Farm’s CSA offers delivery, early bird discounts, and an option to do some work on the farm for reduced fees.

Having studied horticulture at Pennsylvania State University and then studied plant nutrition overseas, Melissa was motivated to educate consumers here at home. She now teaches participants in Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s Boys and Girls Club after school gardening program how, where and when their food is grown. Extending her educational reach, she inspires students to share their new knowledge with their family members.

An active church youth leader, she also organizes a farm-to-table dinner, fundraiser and farm tour, using primarily locally produced foods and beverages. She encourages her team of youths to work side-by-side with her to prepare and serve the community meal.

“There has been an awakening, reconnecting consumers to their farmer and farmers to fresh possibilities. With the aid of research and guidance gained from other farmers, agriculture will trend toward sustainably caring for the land and its abiding residents,” Melissa says.

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