A successful organic farmer, whose produce is popular at the Saturday Kent Farmer’s Market, will add Monday through Friday sales at his farm tucked away at 6271 Red Brush Road beginning June 10.

Jon C. Smith, owner of Jon’s Organic Farm and Produce, said his hours will be 4 to 8 p.m. from mid-June until mid-September. Depending on when they are harvested, six kinds of lettuce, three kinds of kale, tomatoes, sweet corn, onions, garlic, green and red bell peppers, beets, cucumbers, turnips, spinach, broccoli, and basil will be available.

Five acres of rich soil carefully irrigated with drip lines and enriched with organic fertilizers enable Smith to harvest three times during a growing season that begins in March with the cultivation of tiny seedlings nurtured in special flats that can only be used once. The seedlings are grown in a greenhouse that Smith built at the edge of his fields. The season ends in early November when the weather grows colder and the days shorter.

His farm’s rich soil in earlier times served as muck farm for growing celery during the many years the Testa family owned the premises. Smith said the family was particular that the land continued to be used as a farm and he has honored the commitment.

"This is my 10th year here," he said. He runs his farm with the help of one full-time employee and several part-timers. Smith holds a degree in Greenhouse Management from The Ohio State University. He worked several years for Smithers Oasis before going into farming.

Heinen’s Grocery and the Mustard Seed Market are two of his biggest customers.

"They especially like my lettuce," he said.

Smith believes organically grown food is free from harmful substances and more environmentally friendly. "In organic farming, you feed the soil and not the plant," he said.

"The plant will then pull the nutrition from the soil where it is meant to draw its nutrition from."

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) crops are popular with big farming operations because crops grown with them can often withstand harsh weed control substances that can be sprayed, sometimes from airplanes. The weed control substances can contain carcinogens that may cause cancer in humans. Some commercially grown produce is genetically altered to control harmful insects, but they also pose a threat to beneficial insect populations, Smith said.

"You may pay a little more for certified organically grown produce, but you are getting more," he said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have rigorous standards for organic farmers. Smith every year must obtain their certifications, one of which is called GAP or "Good Agricultural Practices." For certification, he must present receipts and records that show the origin of his seeds, the kinds of fertilizers and the quality of the water used in the irrigation. Representatives from the FDA inspect his operations in person.

Muck farms were once more numerous than they are now. Developers are buying them up and, prior to building homes or commercial buildings, are digging up the soil for its peat moss. Likewise, in Canada, with its many lakes and scarce population, companies are buying up huge sphagnum moss bogs for their peat moss that is bagged and sold to lawn and gardening businesses.

Smith has encircled his farm and its neat rows of planted produce with an electrified fence to ward off deer and other animals. The fence, he said, will not kill an animal or human trespasser, but it does provide a jolt.

"I would probably lose most of my produce without it," he said.

Possibly a mile from Lake Rockwell, the man-made reservoir that serves as the source of Akron’s drinking water, the level of the Lake’s water affects how well he is able to drain his property. When the Lake’s water levels are high, the ditch running along his farm backs up.

He created a well with pumps to accept, contain, filter, and circulate water that is inspected by the Portage County Health Department. As summer advances and the land dries out, the system is critical to the farm’s success. Special tractors with backhoes shape the rows of soil. A tractor pulled device then lays down plastic over the soil mounds and punctures the plastic. The seedlings are then inserted by hand and weeding is done by hand.

To harvest, Smith and his employees, utilizing knives, remove plants individually and place them in clean, never before used, cardboard containers to transport to market. A row, once harvested, is plowed up and prepared for another planting.

At the weekly Farmer’s Market, he is often sold out. On the rare occasions when produce remains, Smith donates it to the Center of Hope in Ravenna and Kent Social Services or to area food banks.

A seven-day-a-week operation during the growing season, the farm during winter months affords him some leisure. Smith uses the time to plan and come up with ways to improve operations.