Farming with purpose

Chances are, you’ve seen Copia Farm eggs in your grocery store or on local menus. The Johnstown farm has quickly become a favorite of chefs and consumers in Central Ohio thanks to the outstanding quality of the plant and animal products produced on the farm’s 40 acres.

Sowing Soil in Ohio: Partners both professionally and personally, Bergman and McLeod’s journey began as the only Americans at a sustainable farming course in Australia. Back in the U.S., McLeod worked in watershed restoration in California while Bergman served as the first-ever permaculture curator at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Together they started a San Francisco Bay Area consulting and education company focused on ecological regeneration. In 2013, Ohio beckoned with the promise of affordable land and a chance to apply to their own operation the sustainability practices the two had honed over the years.

All About Terroir: McLeod calls much of modern American agriculture “anti-environmental,” with animals raised indoors, in confinement. “When you’re trying to create taste, you have to create great soil,” he says. “The better the land that animals are on, the better they’re going to taste.” Bergman adds that Copia Farm gives “animals a clean environment, comfort and care. All of that has a huge impact on the quality of our meat and vegetables.”

Working with Nature: In what Bergman and McLeod call a “closed-loop system,” Copia Farm pigs forage freely on forested land, and chickens are raised on pasture. The animals nourish the property’s soil with their nutrient-rich manure, which is also utilized as fertile compost for the farm’s plant life. The operation has scaled while employing permaculture’s principles of “earth care, people care and fair share,” a philosophy that some consider the realm of hobby farms and backyard gardens. The couple rears 3,000 chickens, 50 or so heritage pigs and a generous supply of seasonal fruits, berries, herbs and vegetables, demonstrating the profitability in farming sustainably.

Local Eats: Copia Farm’s products are sold to numerous restaurants in the region, including Wolf’s Ridge Brewing and La Tavola. Bergman and McLeod say that Kevin Caskey, head chef at Skillet, was one of the first to source from them. “He still buys eggs weekly,” says Bergman, “in addition to anything else we have.” Consumers can find the farm’s eggs at Lucky’s Market in Clintonville, all three Central Ohio Whole Foods Markets, and many of the region’s Giant Eagles and Market Districts. Visitors also can stop at Bergman and McLeod’s on-farm shop 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to purchase products, and this year Copia Farm is launching a farm-to-consumer CSA program with Sunbeam Family Farm, also in Licking County.