After graduation, Elizabethtown College alumni couple Emma Hendel ’10 and Elliot Seldner ’10 moved to North Carolina where they started their own business, Fair Share Farm, in 2014. Their core business mission is to grow the best food possible, be kind to the land, and make a living doing it.
Fair Share Farm offers a variety of home-grown products for customers to purchase, including lettuce, tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, peaches, blueberries, cut flowers, various dairy products, and much more. After signing up for an account on their website, customers can place their orders online and pick them up from one of four locations. Emma and Elliot also operate their own farm stand twice a week and bring their products to local farmers’ markets.
The two met in a friend’s dorm room in Ober Hall during the spring semester of their first year at Etown and eventually got married in 2017. Emma graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Education with minors in Anthropology and Asian Studies, and Elliot graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature with a minor in Asian Studies. Elliot says he became interested in agriculture as a student at Etown and relished the opportunity to start a campus garden.
“Being surrounded by beautiful farmland and seeing the Amish community working hard to thrive with agriculture was an inspiration,” said Elliot.
After working and learning from different farms and business owners, it became clear that to make this profession a living, they would have to start their own business.
When the couple started Fair Share Farm, they operated as a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where customers purchased shares at the beginning of the season and received weekly boxes. Emma says this upfront cash was how they were able to finance the first season. To express to their customers that their prices reflect the cost of producing the product, Emma and Elliot adjust their prices based on the profit margin. This way, both the customers and farmers receive their ‘fair share.’
The pair say the lessons they learned at Etown helped prepare them to successfully run their own business.
“Organizational skills, seeing projects through to the end, and leading/being part of a team are all important things we learned and improved upon during our time at Etown,” said Emma.
Despite the pandemic shutting down many small businesses last year, increased demand led to a big growth year for Fair Share Farm. After the stay-at-home orders were put in place, they adapted and converted to nearly 100% retail, direct-to-customer sales using their online ordering system.
“It was challenging and scary to keep working when the whole world was shut down,” explained Emma. “We were deemed essential as food producers, and it was weird making deliveries when no one else was on the road.”
Despite the challenges that come with owning a business, Emma says the experience of starting their own farm has been extremely rewarding.
“Nothing beats working hard toward the goals that you set for yourself,” she said. “We never seem to get bored with this life.”
Follow along with the Fair Share Farm Instagram page to keep up with Emma and Elliott.