Thursday, June 11, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture

Here you have a peek into what the CSA pick-up on the farm looked like on Tues, June 9th. This week those who subscribe to receive a share from the farm got to take home a generous half pound bag of lettuce, a head of garlic, a selection of the first summer squash of the season, pak choi or pac choy (however you want to spell this one), a half a cabbage, a pound of beets, a pound of carrots, a handful of radishes, and two heaping baskets of strawberries!

If you are someone set on knowing where your food is grown and how it is done, this is the farm for you. Only is it very rare that something is brought in to the CSA from another source. 99.9% of the time Tierra has planned and provided for the CSA as a priority. Occasionally a fruit component has been added in from a neighboring farm. Often Tierra has creatively extended their own harvest to keep the CSA in local foods as long as possible. For instance, during the winter months popcorn, corn meal, sauerkraut, and dried chiles and beans have made up for the less productive winter months.

The first of the season's desired crops go to the CSA before any other market outlets. For example, this week farm stand customers are coming and and seeking summer squash, but the squash harvest has been saved for the CSA. These are the customers who chose to pay up front and trust the farm to provide their food on a weekly basis. There are benefits that go with that trust. The situation will be the same with tomatoes before long. CSA subscribers get what is first, new and best. That is just one benefit to the system.

A recent article in The Press Democrat displayed an overview of a plethora of CSAs in our region this season. What an incredible resource it is for our county to have access to such a variety of options in chosing fresh and locally produced foods. As a resident in this commuity, you are sitting in a cultural mecca for this sort of thing. Food systems with such a bounty and such integrity are not found so plentifully elsewhere in our state and nation. Enjoy what you've got! Support the farms so they can continue and improve all that they are offering.

There are many variations in how the CSA is formatted and I can speak from personal experience having worked to pack a few of them around the county and having interacted with a few of the farmers. Some are packed in plastic bins, others in boxes, perhaps a canvas bag. Some buy in additional items not produced on the farm in order to extend the harvest season and diversity of product available. Others include add ons in the form of breads, meats, and cheeses to give you a one stop shop type of situation. This is a great customer convenience, yet it also takes from the time and productivity of a farm that is trying to grow food and often requires an entire new level of business management. Some close up for the season when winter sets in, others try to continue through the winter months in a creative manner either planting crops under the cover of greenhouses or purchasing produce from other sources.

Back to the Tierra Vegetable CSA. At Tierra Vegetables, we are a diversified vegetable operation with a good abundance of strawberries, especially right now! The CSA is just now beginning for the season and will continue through December. At that time, a monthly share is continued for those who are interested in the winter bounty. As winter climate slows growth and productivity of a farm, once a month has been determined the optimal way to continue to offer produce while being sure to have enough for everyone and keeping the production entirely from the farm. This is how things have ironed out after years and years of experience and trial and error. This farm is, in fact, as old as I am.

Ideally, customers come and pick up their share at the farm. At this time you fill your own bags, sometimes chose and weigh out your own share, take the kids for a short stroll around the fields to see where the food has come from the earth, and pick up a few extra items out of the farm stand. This is the most efficient way for the farm to get the product to you and for the customer to enjoy a full experience of gathering your food for the week. Maybe stop have a quick chat with your farmer's Lee and Wayne and your local farm stand figure and CSA manager, Evie. Alternatively, deliveries are offered for those who cannot make the trip to the field due to the busy-ness of life.

Any CSA in Sonoma County is a grand choice for getting your hands on some quality produce. Please enjoy the opportunities at your finger tips! Tierra is a great option for all local, extremely diverse, and a full farm experience. There are still openings for the season if you want to give a try for the season. Evie is your point of contact to sign up.

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