Long story short, a jack of all trades from a small town in Minnesota and an energetic suburbanite from Rochester met by chance in Ecuador, planting the seed for a first generation farm to grow out of a hayfield in the Champlain Valley.
Ian Ater and Lucas Christenson, founders of Fledging Crow, first met by chance at Neverland Farm in southern Ecuador. Lucas was taking a year off school and wound up at the same farm where Ian had been volunteering. The two didn't hit it off right away, but when they saw each other work, a mutual respect formed. In a strange turn of events, the owner of the farm had to take leave for a few months to tend to family matters. This meant that Lucas and Ian were left to run the gardens and help organize the other volunteers. The pair worked against the clock to transform the overgrown garden into a truly impressive little farm. When the time came to part ways, they agreed that if Ian found land to start a farm in Northern New York, Lucas would move out East to be the other half of the project.
The guys started Fledging Crow Vegetables in 2008. It is located just outside of Keeseville on Route 9. Ian’s college professor at SUNY Plattsburgh, Marco Turco, offered the deal of a lifetime when he invited Ian to lease a portion of his land to fulfill his dream of owning his own farm.
What is now Fledging Crow Farm was originally a hayfield, the first 4 acres were a labor of love as rocks and weeds were slowly replaced by viable farming soil. The first year, Lucas and Ian held day jobs and took up residence in the first structure they built on the farm, the greenhouse. They raised pigs and chickens to help work the land and fertilize the soil. They dreamed of the day food would come out of the ground.
The first CSA shares were pre-sold in the winter of 2009 and about 30 members supported the cause. It was a lot of pressure to promise to put food on the table for that many families the first year. With a lot of hope and hard work, the land delivered and before long green things big and small were popping up from the neat rows of soil.
As the years have gone on the Crow has fully taken flight. Each year crop sales are reinvested to increase the farm's capacity to feed the surrounding towns and villages. From living in a tent in the first greenhouse, the guys went on to build a small cabin. When co-owner Ian became a father, a barn and separate apartment were constructed. As demand grew, a large walk-in cooler was built, as well as a heated shop, 6 more greenhouses, and employee housing.
As of Fall 2016, the farm has grown to 35 acres of certified organic vegetables and a crew of 16 people. A true window into what is possible when you have the passion and drive to feed your community. The farm prides itself on creating a fun and nourishing work environment where people from all walks of life can share in the satisfaction of a hard days work punctuated by delicious shared meals. A top priority now is finding ways to serve lower income families in the Champlain Valley, and navigating the legality of providing a great workplace/ day camp for area youth.
"We like to think of this place as a reflection of what community investment can achieve. We put everything we earn back into the farm, because the farm has given so much to us. Reinvesting makes it possible to continue our relationships--with the land, the CSA members, our community partners, and the general public. At the end of the day, it is our community that is investing in us. Our CSA members sign up each year and it's like they're saying, 'we appreciate what you do and we want you to continue,' and that's why we're going to keep growing." -Lucas Christenson, co-owner.