Dana Cager, the owner, operator, and self-described “visionary” behind New Orleans-based Cager Family Farm, comes by her love of growing and immense skill in doing so, honestly.
One could say this passion and unique talent is a part of her heritage.
“My grandfather was a big gardener. It’s something that I always remember. My mother is a grower of orchids and African Violets, which is a skill set on its own,” Cager said proudly. “So, there have always been people around me who have been growers.”
Cager has always had farming in her blood and a yearning for it in her heart, if not the acreage and spare hours in the day to make it what she envisioned.
“I’ve been in New Orleans since 2014. And I just have never had the space to explore that on my own. I lived in apartments,” she said. “So I just like, well, ‘l’ll have a porch garden!’”
“And when I got married, me and my spouse bought a property, and the caveat was it had to have a huge lot in the back, too, so that I could, like, dive into this, not knowing that we would go into a pandemic, and I would actually have time and space to do it,” Cager continued.
Photo Courtesy Cager Family Farm
Like many smaller-scale growers, this passion and talent soon met a need, or in Cager’s case, a desire. Specifically, it was a desire from her friends to procure a jar of her pickles.
“I started making pickles and things for my friends. And they were like, ‘Why don’t you sell these?’ Mind you, I hate pickles,” she said, breaking into laughter. “I can’t even taste pickles. But I was like, I had so many cucumber plants. And I was like, okay, I can’t waste these. I need to do something with these. So I just started pickling.”
What started as a simple project for friends and family soon blossomed into much more.
“My friends were like, ‘Can you make me some? Like, can you put them to the side for me?’” Cager said. “So, I started expanding into my community and folks that I worked alongside. I gave them as presents.”
“I like wanting to be that Southern person who brings you a basket of like canned goods and like baked goods for your birthday and housewarming versus like gift-gifts because I feel like it has such a better personal touch when it’s something that you made with your own hands,” she continued. “And that’s kind of like the business side started.”
What started with gifted jars of vinergar-y goodness from a cucumber grower who doesn’t care for the taste of pickles has grown into a full-blown community-serving side business for Cager.
She now sells her sought-after pickles (in sweet and spicy flavors), relish, salsa, pesto, infused cooking oils, and an assortment of herbs online. Customers can also buy produce boxes — one seasonal and one where you can pick what you want from a list; however, they are for local delivery and pickup only.
Photo Courtesy Cager Family Farm
To hear her tell it, this is just the beginning. When asked what’s next, she doesn’t skip a beat and speaks about passing down the valuable lessons she’s learned from her forebears.
“I want to create a space where kids in the neighborhood can, like, come in and either help in the garden, and their labor of love is to go home with a basket of produce,” Cager said. “I want to teach them different ways to just be sustainable and have their own gardens.”
“I want that to be a space. And I want it to be like completely free of charge, especially for neighborhood kids,” she continued. “And I just want that to be a thing that exists. And I just want to continue to, like, locally provide things as local as I can. I really want to inspire folks to do this in their own areas!”
Cager is nothing if not inspiring, and the future is bright for her family and Cager Family Farm, as long as she only has to sell the pickles and not eat them.