Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Customer Supported Agriculture

At the beginning of this project, I started researching CSA (Customer Supported Agriculture), a brilliant little program some farms offer as a way to connect the consumer to a farm directly. There couldn't be a simpler way to obtain locally grown, organic produce. Normal, city-dwelling folks such as myself have the opportunity through CSAs to buy a share of the harvest by either making quarterly payments (if the harvest is year-round) or making a payment prior to the planting season (allowing the farmer to plant for the necessary demand). Some CSAs ask that you commit to work on the farm a certain amount of hours in addition to the share price. In return for your investment of money and/or time, the farmer provides a box or bag of the harvest each week, which is a variety of fresh, typically organic produce. Harvest share size can vary, but in general, a share provides for the weekly vegetable needs of a four-person family. Some CSAs also offer flowers, eggs, honey, etc. to round it out.

My search for a local CSA started at the Local Harvest website. For the San Diego area, there are four listings: Be Wise Ranch, Seabreeze Organic Farm, Garden of Eden Organics, and Tierra Miguel Foundation. With a quick Google search for CSAs in San Diego, I also found Little Creek Acres. A critical reading of each site led to the elimination of Garden of Eden and Seabreeze since they supplement their boxes/bags of weekly produce with items from other farms that are not always guaranteed to be local. I also eliminated Little Creek Acres because the only way to pick up the weekly share is to drive to the farm in Valley Center (much too far from my home to be an economical option).

Ultimately, I decided to go with Be Wise Ranch for several reasons. Firstly, they offer a 4-week trial period, and I’d like to see how the whole system works before making a quarterly commitment. Secondly, they offer a choice of a small or large box as well as an every-other-week option. Thirdly, they have a pick-up location close to my home at a time that is convenient. And, lastly, their website is well presented and includes the answers to nearly every question that has occurred to me so far. The best feature is their Weekly Pick List which I can reference to find out what to expect in my box each week.

I have placed Tierra Miguel Foundation on the wait list as an option I may pursue later. I particularly like that they have monthly volunteer days so CSA members can participate in farm activities. Be Wise Ranch, being a much larger farm, is less accessible (no visits allowed), although they are building a demonstration farm that will be open soon for tours.

So, I have committed to four weeks at Be Wise Ranch to see how it goes. When I called this afternoon, they told me it would be about a week and a half before my account is activated. I imagine it will be a little like Christmas opening up the box each week. I can't wait!


Mom said...

The Be Wise Ranch program looks fantastic! Can I come for dinner?

Mom said...

You're inspiring me! I finally had a chance to check out the CSA link at the bottom of your blog.

The farm that delivers weekly veggies to a place just a mile or so from our house is already full for this year, but I asked them for info anyway.

There is another one that delivers about 15 minutes away. I've written to them too.

Be thankful that you live in California. Here in Pennsylvania, the growing season is only June through October...

Susan said...

I've been a Be Wise Ranch suscriber just starting this summer and I am *thrilled* with it. I pick up the small box every other week which is just fine for my two-person household. Last week I had pears which were the sweetest most delicious fruit I've *ever* had.

Support Local!

Angelina said...

How are you liking the CSA program with Be Wise Ranch? I'm thinking of joining. Let me know how it's going!
San Diego