Meet Jerry Spencer is an passionate man. So it was with a sense of adventure one day that this chiropractor of 20 years--a man who had never in his life grown a single tomato plant much less a garden--dug up his front lawn and planted a vegetable plot far bigger than what would feed his family of eight.

That was 1996. By 1999, after a few years selling surplus veggies to Birmingham restaurants, expanding his garden and adding a flock of laying hens, Jerry enlisted 40 people to join his fledgling Community Supported Agriculture program. By the end of the season, membership had grown to 65 people paying up front for four to 12 months of weekly boxes of in-season vegetables raised at Mt. Laurel Organic Gardens.

Fast-forward another six years to 2004 and Mt. Laurel has enlisted 25 farms to supply produce and meat to 400 members of the CSA renamed Grow Alabama. To coordinate the network of farmers ranging in size from 2 acres to 27 acres, Jerry hired a full-time office staff of about eight people, each equipped with a computer, a desk and a file cabinet. He also has a field crew of three full-time, year-round workers, and hires extra help for peak harvest times.

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