It’s CSA Share season!

Posted on 16 March 2015 by robwas66

IOC3_15BigNewsHave you ever wished that you had access to the freshest produce available? Thought about how you would go to the Farmers’ Market more if you just had the time? Or, wish you would get that garden that you have had planned for years, actually off the ground–but you never seem to get around to it?

Well then CSA Shares might just be for you. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Community Supported Agriculture is an arrangement where consumers “choose their farmer” by buying shares in a farming operation on an annual basis. In return, the farmer provides a weekly supply of fresh, natural produce throughout the growing season (approximately June to October).

Participating farms choose locations within the metro area  where they bring their shares every week and the consumer goes to a specific place, at a designated time, to pick it up.

Most of the farms focus exclusively on fresh produce, although a growing number also offer shares for other food items such as meat or eggs. Different farms also grow different produce, and the selections change each week as the various options come into their season.

One farm that has a drop off in the Hamline Midway area is the Brown Family Farm.

The Brown Family Farm was started in 2012 by Ben Brown. They participate in a couple of farmers markets and they also have a couple roadside stands, in addition to their share program, which is their main focus.

They deliver a box of produce every week for 17 weeks from the end of June through the middle of October. An additional service is to provide recipes and storage tips in weekly CSA newsletters, to aid in using produce and herbs that may not be as well known.

A “share” refers to a box full of produce, with two box sizes available: a half or a full share. Each week different produce comes into harvest, and whatever is harvested is what you can expect in your box. So, throughout the season the selection will transition from the early cold weather crops like sugar snap peas, lettuces and kale to warmer season crops like cucumbers, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers, back to cold weather crops like squash, cabbage and pie pumpkins. Every week the variety and quantity of produce will vary; this is one of the perks of a CSA share.

To extend the season, they have second plantings of zucchini, beans, and pickles so that our produce continues longer in the season.

In the case of the Brown Family Farm, for example, a Full Share (a box holding approx. 2 grocery bags full of produce) is $575 for the entire season…in other words the equivalent of about 34 bags of produce. You can purchase a half share for $375. The drop off spot is a location in Midway, on Hubbard Ave. near Hamline University. There are a limited number of shares, so if you are interested, sign up soon. Shares are often all gone by the end of April or before.

The Brown Family Farm is actually located in Big Lake, in Sherburne County. The soil in Big Lake is more like sand, so they plant rye in the fall and the spring to till under and provide essential nutrients to the soil. Horse and cow manure is also used to amend the soil. A no-herbicide farm, they weed by hand or with a hoe.

CSA shareholders get first priority in the distribution of the produce. Once all of the CSA boxes are filled, they use the remainder for roadside stands and farmer’s markets. They donate squash for thanksgiving suppers and if there is a surplus of produce, it is brought to their local food shelf (CAER Community Aid Elk River).

If you are interested in learning more about the Brown Family Farm, or are interested in their share program, you can get more information through their web site at www.brownfamilyproduce.com. You can fill out a Share application on the web site, or you can call Jodi at 952-836-5263 or Ben 612-666-2181 for more information.

There are more than 50 family farms that have CSA Shares and distribute in the Twin Cities metro area. However, it is sometimes difficult to find out how close their delivery is to your home. Some farms do cooperate closely with co-ops, so that is one location to check if you want to find a CSA distribution point near your home. Another option is to check out www.landstewardshipproject.org for more information about CSA, and a listing of some of the farms that serve the state with CSA shares.