Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gearing Up For Our 2014 CSA Season (Community Supportive Agriculture)

It seems to me the world already knows what CSA Memberships or also called partnership/shares/subscription farming is all about.  But occasionally I will spout out those letters and I get a blank look.  Believe it or not, most "seasoned" CSA members will be signing up with their new or last year's membership farm between February and March, many months before the spring/summer/fall growing season begins.
Here is what the Localharvest.org describes as a CSA farm:
"a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer. In brief...
Advantages for farmers:
  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the local farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown"
In 2007, we started growing vegetables to sell at our local Farmer's Markets along with fruits from our mature orchard.  We were brand new to our area and met so many wonderful people.  I especially became friends with Mayor Jerry Fichter (a lady mayor) who was also new at running our Gridley Farmer's Market as part of her new task of being head of Gridley Business Improvement District.  Jerry was so helpful to me to figure out the ins and outs of selling at Farmer's Markets.  It was a lot of work though!!!
The next year, we decided to try farming as a CSA membership farm at the urging of a friend.  She knew I had some reservations about the Farmer's Market because most of the people who purchased our carefully & sustainably grown produce, didn't care about our Windmill Farm and we didn't know who they were either.

I was nervous that people wouldn't join our CSA farm, so we only committed ourselves to have 10 shares/memberships.  My friend was right, if we grow it, they will come. 
We have increased our membership, but remain small in "farming standards" because we want to be able to know our members; and maintain our love of our land and be good stewards of it.
Back to the point, our cycle starts again. Seedlings in the greenhouse; fields disked waiting for plants; plans are in place of plant locations.  Waiting to figure out whether we are still going to use the ditch water converted into drip systems; or use the house well.  It all depends on water allocations; and costs, of course.
Check out localharvest.org; or read your area fabulous magazine, "Edible", they carry lots of information regarding all the farms in your specific area.  Ours is called Edible Shasta-Tehama-Butte as it covers our county and a few neighboring counties.

CSA baskets are a great way to be inspired about food.  Last year I had some parents give a season's subscription to their son who lived in Butte County.  It made them feel good that their son would be eating healthy foods while going to college.  It is trivial on my part, but it is nice to get a piece of fruit or vegetable that DOESN'T have a sticker on it!! Right from the farm.
Have a wonderful weekend.

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