by Naomi Jackson, Becketwood Member
About 20 years ago, Anita and I were enjoying our church's Mardi Gras festival. The silent auction offerings included a once-a-month share of vegetables from a local CSA (community supported agriculture farm). We didn't know what a CSA was, but we were acquainted with the farmers and vegetables sounded good, so we placed a bid. And won.
From June to October, once a month, we went to a designated pick-up spot and brought home a bag of vegetables. Snap peas, beans, radishes, cabbages and squash were greeted with enthusiasm. Then there were garlic scapes, fennel, celeriac... things we'd never seen before and didn't know what to do with.
It was a learning curve, but the next year we decided to buy a full share. (Once a week! How brave of us!) We found that our membership involved a once-a-season trip to the farm to help harvest and bring bags of vegetables back to the Twin Cities. There were also work days, harvest dinners, newsletters, and pretty soon we were part of an amazing community. Spring Hill Community Farm is now our favorite place to be.
On April 25, CSA farmer Patty Wright introduced the idea of community supported agriculture to a Becketwood audience. She told the story of Spring Hill Community Farm, which she and her husband, Mike Racette, started in 1991. You can see pictures and learn more here. I heard many positive comments after her presentation, but I also heard people saying, “I can't join a CSA. I just can't use that many vegetables.”
Knowing that it isn't practical for most Becketwood residents to be a CSA member, I want to offer some alternative ideas for how to get locally grown fresh produce during the growing season, and sometimes even through the winter.
Everyone I know loves farmers' markets, and they are of course a great place to buy local produce. But I learned something new when I went to the opening of Midtown Farmers' Market. One of the growers, Burning River Farm, offers a “Farmers Market CSA Share.” You set up a pre-paid account with her, and use that account to buy vegetables at her stand. So you buy only as you need, you're giving a CSA farm a reliable income, and the best part for you is that the value of the account is more than you paid for it, e.g., $200 gives you $230 worth of vegetables. If you don't use it all this season, come back next year. I think this is a great idea, and I hope it will catch on with other farmers.
Of course co-ops are a good place to buy locally grown produce. I've been able to buy local root crops all winter. I don't remember the last time I bought California-grown carrots. Some mainline grocery stores also offer local produce, including Lunds & Byerlys. I can't give you more information on that because I don't shop there, but check it out if that's your go-to grocer.
There's one more way for Becketwood members to get locally grown produce. If you have a member garden and have extra vegetables, you can share them. Through the growing season, there is a basket for extra produce on the ledge near the mailboxes. Leave some, take some, and take pride in knowing that your vegetables were grown right out our front door.
(Coming next, The 1500 Servings Project: Our Year of Eating Locally)