Former cafe owner turns 18-acre land into nonprofit farm and community center

Kathy Cox, a Chesterfield resident and former owner of The Little Mustard Seed Cafe and Coffee in downtown New Baltimore, frequently experienced challenges finding local organic growers. Determined to grow her own produce, she took matters into her own hands by purchasing 18 acres of land in Casco Township. However, she says she soon realized that the land had the potential to produce more than just her intended produce, sparking a vision to create a supportive community.

Cox says she believes there was a bigger vision at play, guided by her faith. In March 2022, she sold her café and focused all of her attention on the farm, which she named R.O.N.S. Farm-A.C. Center, Inc. — pronounced like Ron’s pharmacy — in honor of her father and short for Reaching Our Neighbors Spiritually, Farm and Community Center.

Cox remembers her father, a Vietnam veteran, who found comfort in the company of other veterans. She says he would often spend time at local bars seeking the companionship of others who had returned from Vietnam, and she knew how much he valued — and even depended on — the community of people he surrounded himself with. Cox says this is not only where her passion for creating a close and helpful community came from, but also where her love of supporting veterans began.

Cox shared her ideas surrounding the farm with some of her colleagues, friends, and family, and soon a board sharing the same vision was formed, officially becoming a recognized 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2016. Together, they established some initial goals, embracing not only the farm becoming a place where sustainable organic produce could be grown, but also envisioning how people from surrounding communities could come together.

The farm has become a place where volunteers can participate in the day-to-day activities necessary to maintain the farm and all of its animals, and many groups of people such as veterans, special needs organizations, churches, or other groups of local citizens have come and enjoyed companionship with others like them.

“There are so many lessons to be learned through the process of growing food,” she says. “I love being able to participate in watching a diverse group of individuals learn about life and God’s creation.”

Throughout the property, one will encounter many members of what Cox calls the “Farm-ily.” There are three friendly and enthusiastic goats, which Cox says naturally assist in weed management on the property, and approximately 80 free-range chickens that provide organic pastured eggs, as well as a pig, four cats, three ducks, one turkey, and a guinea hen. A sensory garden as well as a no-harm beehive are also located on the property and some of the honey produced is collected and sold to visitors at the farm.

Currently, there are five hoop houses and a passive solar greenhouse on the property which extend their growing season. They offer Community Supported Agriculture (CS) as well as produce for sale at the farm stand and local farmer’s markets. Getting healthy produce out to those unable to get to the farm will be done through a mobile farmer’s market program with donation-only payments for those unable to afford healthy produce.

Adding to what fueled her passion for R.O.N.S. Farm-A.C., Cox studied international business practices and earned a master’s degree in elementary education with a math major. As a stay-at-home mom also focusing on her daughter’s education, she is always looking for opportunities to teach, and she recognized the farm as another avenue for her to do just that.

Cox says this will be the first year of operating the farm with full-time volunteers since the sale of her cafe and her husband’s retirement and that they are looking forward to focusing on the farm this season. She says a few new additions this year are a fresh-cut flower garden, flower arranging classes, and a delivery service using the help of Farm Assists as a means to donate food to those in need throughout the local community.

Looking ahead, Cox says they plan to continue connecting with veteran organizations providing a place for them to garden and farm, or just keeping the farm open for people to come and relax. She plans to make the farm 100% accessible to those with physical limitations and also hopes to generate all of the income needed in order to sustain the farm from on-site activities including the sales of produce and flowers.

“As stated so beautifully by Masanobu Fukuoka, ‘The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings,’” she says.

For more information about R.O.N.S. Farm-A.C. and its offerings, visit
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Read more articles by Rita MacDonald.

Rita MacDonald is a U.S. Army veteran and a full-time registered nurse who claims that her Irish and Scottish heritage is the reason for her love of storytelling. She is the mother of two adult sons, “Gummy” to her three grandchildren, loves talking with anyone who will engage in a conversation, and “eats life with a shovel!” In addition to her work with The Keel, Rita is a contributor for the Thumbprint News, an author of three books, and writes a blog at