During the hot Missouri summers, Dustin Ostmann carefully nurtures the plants on his farm. He checks their conditions, watches the weather, and battles pests, using only natural growing methods to raise his plants. After harvesting their produce, Dustin provides it directly to his customers through his community-supported-agriculture program. His dedication to his plants and customers has made his program a growing success.
Dustin’s grandparents own Lakeview Farm, the place where Dustin grows much of his produce. As a
child, Dustin worked there frequently, learning to farm by helping his grandfather John and his father,
Mark. When Dustin graduated from Lindenwood University, however, he started working at a
manufacturer, farming only in his spare time. Eventually, working and farming conflicted. He had to
choose between his job and his plants. It was not a difficult choice.
Dustin decided to continue planting at Lakeview. He leased some other land from his family in the
bottomlands of the nearby Missouri River. Rather than raising corn or soybeans, though, Dustin wanted to try selling produce to local buyers. He started by selling his "all natural" produce to a local store in Wentzville.
In 2014, Dustin chose to market his produce directly to his customers and started a CSA program.
Because of the quality of his produce and his dedication to his customers, Dustin’s program has
experienced strong growth in his first three years. The first year, he had 15 customers buying from him.
Now, his customer base has grown to 65.
“People really appreciate what you do and how you do it,” Dustin says.
Through the CSA program, Dustin offers a dazzling assortment of vegetables and fruits from week to
week, from potatoes to kale to strawberries to tomatoes, along with his personal favorites. One of those favorites is the Cherokee Purple tomato.
“Cherokee Purple tomatoes are our favorite. They are so juicy and rich in flavor—the best BLT tomato. Since I started growing Cherokee Purple, Sara and I don’t bother with eating any ‘regular tomatoes’ anymore,” Dustin says.
Another personal favorite is watermelon.
“I don’t really understand why, but our watermelons are the sweetest and juiciest,” he says. “By the
middle of July we have customers asking every week when the watermelons will be ready because they can’t find watermelons as fresh and sweet elsewhere.”
Each week, his wife, Sara, helps distribute the produce, sometimes with the help of their toddler, Henry. As customers return week after week, Dustin and Sara form unique relationships with them. Dustin finds that these relationships are key to the success of his CSA program.
“Every week we love to hear how our members are enjoying their produce. It’s great to learn how
members prepare their produce in different ways,” Dustin says.
Despite the challenges of raising plants in Missouri, Dustin enjoys following them through their stages as they progress from seedlings to producing plants. He plans to continue raising"all natural" produce to sell locally as long as his loyal customers keep supporting him.
Written by: Greg Gaia