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Archive for the ‘Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)’ Category

I usually avoid using this blog for shameless commercial promotion of our capitalist ventures, but today I will make an exception.

We are expanding our Community Supported Agriculture program this season, and are looking for new subscribers. Here is the run-down on Local Roots’ CSA:

CSA subscribers receive a box of vegetables from our farm every week from June to October. We harvest, pack, and deliver the CSA boxes to various drop sites on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Most produce in the boxes is harvested the same day that it is delivered to you, so it’s super-duper fresh, and everything in the boxes is grown on our farm in Duvall.

Each week, CSA shares contain a good mix of  between eight and twelve different vegetables. We avoid over-loading you with the same thing week after week, although we do give delicious salad greens and lettuce almost every week. We mostly include items that most people are familiar with, plus one or two vegetables a week that are a little more unusual, like pea vines, baby turnips, mustard greens, fennel, purslane, escarole, and sprouting broccoli. Staple items include lettuce, mixed salad greens, Swiss chard, carrots, kale, beets, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes and winter squash.

The price for the 20 week season is $400 ($500 if you want more veggies). We estimate that the average $20/week cost buys you more than $25 worth of produce at market prices. We have pickup sites in Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, Maple Leaf, Phinney Ridge, Madison Valley, Downtown Seattle and on the farm. If you can round up a group of six or more people, we may be able to add a location in a new neighborhood. CSA members are invited to the farm for open houses in the early summer and fall, farm dinners, and work parties throughout the season.

Want to sign up? All you have to do is email us: csainfo@localrootsfarm.com. Or, if you want more information, visit the CSA page on our website: www.localrootsfarm.com.

OK, end of paid commercial advertising. Next, we will return to the regularly scheduled assortment of farm news, botanical interest stories, and occasional political screeds.


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So, we’re buying this new farm, and basically starting everything from scratch. At our new place, we have a fabulous huge garage, two houses with lots of… potential, and 40 acres of beautiful farm land.

What we don’t have:

greenhouses for starting seedlings

greenhouses for growing our tomatoes

running water for washing vegetables and irrigating

a wash station/packing house

internet access

etc,

etc.

Other things we didn’t have, but now do, include a tractor, several essential tractor implements (seeders, disc harrow), a heated indoor space for germinating seeds, and all the parts we need to build three 30’x90′ greenhouses. Actually, we even have one of those greenhouses completely constructed (so I was exaggerating a little before when I said we didn’t have greenhouses yet). Here it is:

Between buying this property and acquiring all the items we need to grow and harvest vegetables, we’ve been spending a lot of money. Real estate transactions involve all kinds of upfront costs, like getting inspections and surveys, and we’re still in the process of applying for two government-guaranteed beginning farmer loans, so we don’t actually own the place yet. It’s a little bit of a scary situation, but we do have an agreement with the seller to rent the property until our loans close, or through the end of this growing season. That means we’re sure to be able to complete our growing season here, even if the worst comes to worst and our purchase agreement falls through.

In the meantime, we’re moving ahead, getting the houses cleaned up, chopping wood, building greenhouses, starting our first seeds, and taking subscribers for our community supported agriculture program.

When I tell the story of how we started Local Roots, back in 2007, I say that the three of us “founding farmers” each put up only $500 for our startup costs. To be sure, we were starting out at a piece of property that already had a greenhouse for starting seeds, and our landlord/partner allowed us to delay paying rent for the land and use of his equipment until the end of the season. Still, we had lots of costs in January, February, March, and April, and didn’t sell a single vegetable until markets opened in May. We had to buy seeds, seedling trays and soil mix, harvest bins, tools, and a van, pop-up canopy, and tables for the farmers market.

Me, at our first farmers market, almost five years ago.

We spent over $5,000 on all these items, but with careful planning and judicious use of a credit card, we were able to buy everything we needed. How did we do it? With the miracle of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). In January of 2007, I sent an email to everyone I knew, saying that I was starting a farm, and that they could send me $300 and I’d promise to supply them with a season’s worth of vegetables every week. Even now, I can’t believe that a) I had enough confidence to believe we’d actually be able to live up to that promise and b) anyone took me up on it. In fact, 60 people took us up on it our first season. $300 checks started appearing in my mailbox in early February, allowing us to pay off our first credit card bill, and start shopping for a market van.

As it happened, we did manage to grow plenty of food our first season, and supplied our wonderful CSA members with a box of vegetables every week for 20 weeks.

A CSA box in early July 2008. Lots of green in there!

By the end of our first season we had made a little money. Not enough to live on, but enough to believe that we could someday make a living farming. Each spring, our CSA members help get the farm up and running by sending in their subscription payments several months before they will ever see a single radish. As we’ve grown, we’ve been able to set aside more money each fall to carry us through the lean winter months, and have become a little less dependent on the CSA money for our spring purchases. We’ve been able to invest in better equipment, a second delivery van, and pay for health insurance.

This spring, though, is more like our very first year. Jason and I are lucky enough to have a nest egg that will be our down payment on the new farm, but we’re spending our cash hand over fist right now buying seeds, equipment, and greenhouses, hiring a neighbor to plow our first field, and considering the costs of a well upgrade and a new roof for the farmhouse. Today, I’m more appreciative than ever of the community that supports our farm. Although I’m again watching checks arrive in the mail without yet having planted a single seed in the ground, we’ve been here before, and I have about 1000 times more confidence about our ability to grow a bounty of food than I did five years ago at this time.

If you want to be part of this adventure in farming, we are currently taking new subscribers for the CSA. You can find out about it here: Local Roots CSA.

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And just like that, the weekly schedule begins fleshing itself out. As I may have alluded to in an earlier post, the year for us follows a fairly predictable trajectory. Wintertime is our down time. We plan, we pore over seed catalogues, we sleep in, we pretend we are on vacation. Springtime is when we do all the prep work for the whole year. Certain crops are only planted once, and many of them (like onions, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, leeks) we seed and then transplant early in the year. Our days are dictated by the weather, not by a schedule. On nice days, we try to get as much outdoor work done as possible. When it rains, we pretend we are still on pretend vacation.

Then, slowly, days begin to take on meaning. First, it’s restaurant delivery day. Then, last Sunday, our first farmers market started. Now, Saturdays are harvest days and Sunday is for Broadway. Soon, Thursday will be devoted to Queen Anne, Friday to Phinney, and Saturday to Magnolia. Then, as if our weeks weren’t full enough, comes the CSA. Come fall, the markets taper off and then the food tapers off, and we are back pretending we are on vacation, preparing to begin all over again.

Siri and I have a special affinity for the Broadway market because we live a mere 5 blocks away. After the market yesterday, our interns drove the van back to the farm and Siri and I strolled back home. The market itself was remarkable too. To begin with, we harvested nearly every scrap of food on the farm and we sold out of everything by 1:30 – definitely a first for us.

We finished the market sitting on our table chatting with our friends and neighbors and lamenting the cold weather that we’ve endured this spring, wishing the veggies were just a little further along. Luckily, the table wasn’t completely bare once the vegetables disappeared. Our booth was graced with the very satin flower our CSA members made at our inaugural Taking Root project on May Day as well as a display with photos of the May Day festivities.

In case you haven’t heard, we are teaming up with local author and educator Ann Pelo for a project we are calling Taking Root. Ann is an educator who focuses on place-based learning. She has been a regular volunteer on the farm since our first year, but this year she will be working on the farm 4 days a week as well as running Taking Root. Earlier this year, Ann proposed that we host weekly gatherings on the farm where you all can get to know your fellow vegetable lovers while doing art projects that will beautify our farm and strengthen your connection to the land where your food is grown. If you want to know more, check out the Taking Root blog: takingrootatlocalroots.wordpress.com.



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