Facebook

Wersinger, Manaton partner as investment sharecroppers

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Enlarge photo

Chad Manaton, left, and Jean-Pierre Wersinger show where a greenhouse is being built on property where they began producing local produce for subscription paying customers.

Chad Manaton, left, and Jean-Pierre Wersinger show where a greenhouse is being built on property where they began producing local produce for subscription paying customers.



Enlarge photo

Chad Manaton shows how covers over produce insulate them from cold temperatures.

Jim Fair

Chad Manaton shows how covers over produce insulate them from cold temperatures.



Enlarge photo

A variety of lettuce will be offered fall subscribers and at the market at Stomping Grounds when it opens.

Jim Fair

A variety of lettuce will be offered fall subscribers and at the market at Stomping Grounds when it opens.



Enlarge photo

Some of the primitive equipment Chad Manaton and Jean-Pierre Wersinger started out with has been replaced with more efficient machinery.

Jim Fair

Some of the primitive equipment Chad Manaton and Jean-Pierre Wersinger started out with has been replaced with more efficient machinery.



Jean-Pierre Wersinger’s business model, planted in French agriculture, has sprouted in the Greer area.

Wersinger and partner, Chad Manaton, are for a lack of better words, investment sharecroppers. They own Suburban Sharecrop, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business that has become a lifestyle for consumers who buy local, seasonal food from a farmer.

The partners charge a subscription (membership) fee for produce grown locally and delivered fresh weekly in a reusable canvas bag. The quantity depends on how well the growers produce their crops. “If we have a good year our customers get a larger portion,” Wersinger said. “By paying us ahead of time it provides us capital to start a season.”

“It’s definitely challenging and farming is intense,” Wersinger said. “Our passion is helping people eat healthy by providing locally produced food.”

The benefits complement growers and consumers. The growers market the food before the planting season and the cash flow enables the planning of equipment and seeds/plants for the year. Consumers, increasingly turning to local produce, are guaranteed freshly harvested food, new vegetables and ways of cooking (SuburbanSharecrop.com has recipes). Relationships are built between growers of food and subscribers.

Manaton’s return on investment is more personal. He found he was gluten intolerance.

Essentially, said Manaton, “the variety of vegetables is like having a diversity of stocks. The local movement is like a farmers market and direct to consumers.”

 “Our model is Parisian. It is techniques that came out of France in the 18th Century forward,” said Wersinger. “What they specialized was growing a lot of different vegetables in a little space. They maximized their vegetables.”

The growers have less than six acres located just outside the city near a busy highway. Depending on the season staples such as cabbage, lettuce, turnips, radishes, beets, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes are routinely harvested. The garden was started in March. A second CSA starts Dec. 20.  They do not sell to restaurants.

Manaton said the premise for their business was to work in backyards. “This just happened to be a very large one,” he said with a big laugh.

Their backgrounds are diverse – Wersinger has a degree in architecture from Clemson University and Manaton attended Bob Jones University and has an IT business. Both enrolled in master gardener training courses at Clemson University Cooperative Extension.

The landowner and growers connected on a phone call from the resident offering his unattended land in return for produce.

Amusingly, Manaton relates how the landowner observed the growers maintaining the land with a small tiller. “He said, ‘You’ve got to find a better way.’ So he got us a bigger tiller.”

Wersinger said their subscribers like the variety of their garden. “Diversity is also important with growers. Pests are a problem and you want to rotate the crops to keep their population down and not harbor one kind,” Wersinger said.

“It’s been exciting and we’re getting a lot of support from the community. There’s a huge demand in the upstate for local produce,” Manaton said.

The growers will be selling their produce inside Stomping Grounds. They have been customers of the downtown coffee shop and regularly provide produce. “We’re wanting to develop produce stands like you see along side the roads. This is the kind of markets we see growing in popularity,” Wersinger said.

They are also building a greenhouse to produce year-round produce not typically available in the winter.

The record breaking wet summer did harm some of their produce.

Wersinger remembers his mother’s cooking as a way to bring family together. “My mom was such a good cook and she used fresh vegetables. We would pick our meal from the family garden and she would cook it. My interest in farming is providing that quality of life to families in the upstate.

“Provide fresh produce and now you make a meal out of it and you sit down with family. Now how wonderful is that?”

The growers’ first season has been mostly friends and associates. “The first season we just wanted to get our feet and not take too much of a risk,” Wersinger said. “We were afraid there wouldn’t be enough people interested in local food production.”

“We want to prove this (food) is good for the community and sustainability. We are not pioneers,” Manaton said. “We are part of something that is growing. The more food that is locally grown, now creating a local economy.”

Share



Leave a Comment



Trending: Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport, Obituaries, Chon Restaurant, Allen Bennett Hospital