“Grower Spotlight” gives customers and consumers of the Chesterhill Produce Auction (CPA) a chance to get to know the farmers that sell their products at the auction.
Warren Fussner is a long time contributor, volunteer, seller, and buyer at CPA. He’s been attending auctions in some capacity long before Rural Action was involved at CPA. In fact, Warren attended many of the first CPA auctions. At most auctions now you can find him showing the produce as it’s sold and relaying the information back to the auctioneer and clerk.
On a beautiful Tuesday in June myself and other members of the Sustainable Agriculture team visited Warren’s farm in Chesterhill to learn more about what he grows and the history of his property. His family moved onto the 90 acre property in 1978. Later that year they raised their barn, an absolutely beautiful display of joints and craftsmanship that once held dairy cows, chickens, and driving horses. With the local dairy market gone, the barn now serves as a home for his buggy, horses, sheep, and some stray cats that like to roam the property.
Although he doesn’t keep fields anymore he does still keep a large garden where he likes to grow corn, beets, peppers, potatoes, green onions, tomatoes, and beans. Warren also keeps bees, a hobby that he learned many years ago from experience and reading.
Among the most impressive parts of the tour was his workshop. A leatherworker by trade, Warren’s workshop is an incredible space stuffed with his latest projects. Beautifully designed belts hang from the ceiling alongside rugged saddles awaiting repair. All of this surrounded by an array of tools all designed for specific tasks and needs. Towards the end of our tour Warren invited us into his home where we met his wife and got to know more about the history of the local area. We learned that Chesterhill, being a community founded largely by Quakers, was very tolerant and served as a hub for the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Warren takes a lot of pride in knowing his lineage and local history. His commitment to history and to building a strong local food network make it clear that Warren is proud to be a pillar of the local community.
For Warren, the auction is all about bringing local produce to local people. He says simply, “It’s a community thing.”
Alex Mykulyn is an Americorps Summer Vista member with Rural Action‘s Sustainable Agriculture team. He is a sophomore at Monmouth University where he studies international relations.