Farm Age: 7 years old
Farm Size: 6.5 acres
Product/Output: Vegetables and value-added products (pickled vegetables, kimchi, and kraut)
Region: Chestertown, MD
Favorite Piece of Farm Equipment: Her one tractor—the rest of her equipment is hand tools!
Taste is Oksana Bocharova’s measure of success for her produce grown in Chestertown, Maryland.
“When I’m selling at the [farmers] market, people say, ‘Your vegetables are so tasty!’ And I know I’m doing something right,” says Oksana.
The good reviews of her vegetables are not by chance. Oksana ensures the quality of her food through the science behind the soil. She holds multiple degrees in agriculture and soil biology from agribusiness school in Moscow, Russia. Through her studies, she explored the relationship between soil health and nutrient content. She saw firsthand how the food system is on the brink: Industrial Farming practices across the globe are degrading soil health, and she believes that the decline in soil health makes for less nutritious foods.
In the US, she participated in the University of Wisconsin Dairy Farm training program. During the program, she increased her skills in animal husbandry but longed to work in produce. She eventually moved to Maryland to work on an organic farm, and later took those skills to establish her own farm: Oksana’s Produce Farm.
On her farm, she uses only organic practices and pays extremely close attention to the health of her soils. She specifically works on her soil’s micronutrients, which she compares to writing a Ph.D. every year.
“Soil is not just dirt. Soil is a living organism, which is constantly going through different chemical processes,” Oksana explains. “There are a number of external factors which affect soil health, and climate change is making them harder and harder to predict.”
She constantly has to adapt to the changing climate and weather patterns, making each crop a new challenge. Oksana has also had to adapt her business because of this uncertainty. With climate change, it is becoming more and more difficult for her to rely only on field production to make a profit. Her value-added products, like kimchi, pickled vegetables, and sauerkraut, offer a greater selection to her farmers’ market customers. They also offer pastured non-GMO, non-soy eggs, fermentation classes, farm tours, and run an AirBnB out of the farmhouse, so people can visit and spend a couple of days on the farm.
She also received past funding through the Nature Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentives Program (NRCS EQUIP) to build a greenhouse and well. The greenhouse allows for her to diversify her produce offerings, and the well provides an additional water source for when rain is unpredictable, which is increasingly vital as weather becomes more uncertain.
All of these adaptations have made Oksana’s farm more resilient in the face of constant change. She is encouraged by the improvements of her soil’s micronutrients and is determined to continue to implement sustainable practices at her farm. And, of course, she looks forward to continuing to bring delicious produce to Chestertown, Maryland.