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Sunday, October 4, 2009

Annual CSA Meeting



I just returned from our annual CSA meeting with Harmony Valley Farm. What does CSA stand for? Community Supported Agriculture. The reason I wanted to post a little something about CSA's is that they are really important to the local, sustainable, organic movement that is going on these days with respect to eating good healthy food. When you join a CSA you are helping a Farm by creating a relationship, a commitment. The bonus is that when the farm is really productive you get loads of produce and you reap benefits. If the farm suffers from draught or other casualty then you share in the loss. That way the farm is able to use the money from the members of the CSA to buy the needed materials to plant the year's crops, packaging, wages and other production costs. Our CSA has been doing (CSA) this since 1992 (or 1993 I don't remember what Richard, our farmer said this afternoon, but it has been significant).

I belong to this CSA with my husband, his sister & brother-in-law. We share the weekly food boxes that we get. Actually we pick up a box of veggies every other week and it tends to work out really well. Our CSA offers Coffee (its darn good we give it as holiday gifts), Cheese, Veggie, Meat, & Fruit shares. We only get the Fruit and Veggies, but after today's meeting as well as last year's annual meeting the other members are so Ga-Ga over the cheese share we might break down and get that because these people were practically drooling.

At the annual meeting Richard, Terri, & Andrea (the Farm's mastermind team) met with members in person to discuss what is working, what isn't working, feedback, and costs. They know that the members are what keep their farm going and they respect the relationship. This CSA is doing so well they cannot accept many new members each year. They have a pretty high retention rate. But, one of the areas that is still hard to manage is member education. Sounds silly right, but there are some basics that people tend to either forget or fail to read over when they get their weekly newsletters from the Farm.

What are the basics you ask? Well:

- If you don't cook often or eat out more than not then join a CSA might be a really hard transition as you get quite a lot of veggies (the picture above is an example of a box of weekly veggies)
- This CSA tries hard to give you all sorts of veggies that you may never have encountered before. For example, in the photo we have 2 large Celeriac roots. How many times have you eaten that in your life?
- You need to be cognizant that you are picking up the correct share(s) for that week
- Leave the boxes at the site so that they can be reused
- If there are bonus items on the veggie front then those items are not for the fruit share people but the veggie people
- If you take something from the "swap box" you should be swapping something out!
- Check off your name on the list so that you tell the site coordinator you got your goods...

These are pretty simple "rules" but there are many times when someone is missing a box of veggies or coffee or whatever and the last few people to the site feel pretty awful. Read the fantastic newsletters and emails from the Farm. So one of the ground rules to know is if you join a CSA you have to pay attention to the time, pick up your goods as soon as possible, especially if its a hot or cold day. You do not want your tasty goodness to freeze or wilt.

However, part of what is so great about CSA's and all the produce you get is that you can freeze or can whatever you do not get to for our terribly long winters. You can make lots of soup (see other blog post) or can beans, pickles, tomatoes, sauces...

So my question to you...how many of you are part of a CSA? Do you love it? What do you love? What do you have a hard time with? Do you know your farmers? Share you knowledge with us!

Check out these links to find a CSA near you.
http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/csa/csa.shtml
http://www.localharvest.org/

Harmony Valley is located in Viroqua WI about 3.5 hours  from the Twin Cities. They deliver local, organic, sustainable food every week to the Twin Cities!

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