Invest now for a summer of produce

At the Market: Invest now for a summer of produce

By: Boulder County Farmers Markets

Photo Credit: Sean Conway of Micro Farms harvesting lettuce in Lakewood / Daniel Bedell

 

It’s not a new story but one that’s tried and true. It’s a little risky and unpredictable. Any investment is. You never know exactly what you’ll receive each week as a return. But isn’t that the fun of it? We’re talking about buying shares in a farm, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

CSA’s are the origin of the term “seed money.” Money that literally buys seeds, supplies and pays for labor for the season before any income from farm sales flow in. It’s a sincere investment that has potential to impact the community all year long, and bonus – you get a box of produce, meat or eggs each week during peak growing season.

Jeni Nagle, Front Range Manager for Ela Family Farms, an orchard in Hotchkiss, believes CSAs and farmers markets are the best way to support local growers.

 “Farmers have a lot of unknowns in their businesses – like crop failure,” says Nagle, “In those unknowns, it is nice to know that a portion of crops are paid and the fruit as a home. We give priority to our CSA members.”

Now’s the time to invest in that local farmers, and help them get their farms up and running for the year. Although one farm share is not one in the same. Therefore, it makes sense to shop around for the right investment that fits your style and needs.

For the Holy Grail of Vegetables

So you’re in it for the vegetables. We get it. Vegetables are literally our lifeblood too. There’s an endless list of amazing vendors to choose to get your CSA from if you want only produce goods.

You can get your start by looking at Aspen Moon Farm, Black Cat Organic Farm, Monroe Organic Farm, or Ollin Farms. These five are heavy on the veg. You really can’t go wrong.

Kilt Farms in Longmont goes one step further by offering customization. If you don’t like beets you’ll never get them in your share. This is a unique offering that isn’t possible through most CSAs. They even have home delivery for an extra $7 a week. Now that’s customer service localized!

For the Meat Lover

Whole pigs, half pigs or bundles of pork. Of course, there’s options for chicken and eggs too. Jodar Farms out of Wellington is just one of the farms meeting your meat needs for the season. Info on their 2020 CSA went live on their website yesterday. It’s worth noting that their happy, and roaming chickens are only available through the CSA and are not on sale at the market

Corner Post Meats down in Black Forest has a focus on regenerative grazing on their leased Audubon land rotating all their animals around 1,500 acres. Their CSA model offers a flexible, monthly meat box subscription. And oh wait, it’s shipped to your door. Make it a mixed bundle of beef, pork, lamb and chicken or opt for only the beef cuts.

For the Cherry on Top

Fruit shares are great on their own, or added to many of the options above. Some farms already have a relationship with orchards like Ela Family Farms where you can add a fruit option to your vegetable share. Or you can go all in on fruit because who doesn’t love boxes of peaches and apples, and cherries if the late frost doesn’t affect the yield.

Nagle says that they split their share types in three early, peak and seconds to best accommodate both their customers and the unpredictable spring weather. The early season share takes into account that mother nature may hurt their cherry and early season peach crop. It is little bit more economical given the risk.

However, Nagle says they still offer an insurance policy by offering value added – dried fruit, applesauce or jams should the fruit season go south. Ela only offers at market pickups or farm partner add ons because they believe that supporting other local growers strengths the ag community.

For the Mixer and Matcher

Reduce your food miles, and make your CSA a one stop shop. Cure Organic Farm or Red Wagon Farm are an example of this model. They have add-ons ranging from local eggs, bread, wine, cheese, mushrooms and fruit. You want, and they probably have a local food partner that features it.

For the Social Butterfly

63rd St Farm turns their weekly CSA pickup into a community throwdown. They have all the bells and whistles for their share – produce, eggs, meat, raw milk and new this year medicinal herbs. If it isn’t better than that – wash it all down with wine and a slice of pizza while you mingle with other food lovers.

Good things to know:

  1. Every share is a little bit different. This includes cost, size, timing and what you get inside your box. In general a share is about 20 weeks, and you receive a preselected box of produce each of those weeks. However, times are changing, and CSA models are too. Be sure to ask the fine print details of pickup and model.
  2. The risk. With any investment comes a small amount of risk, and in these changing climates what’s more risky than the weather. When you become a CSA member you share this burden with the farmer. They’ll put you first as a member if times get rough but at least they’re not in it alone if come hell and high water.
  3. You can also decide to select a share on agreed upon values. This is truly an example of voting with your dollars. Some farms focus on biodynamic systems and/or regenerative soil health rebuilding our ecosystems one season at a time. Ask these questions, and you’ll be surprised to understand the stewardship of these local, unsung heroes.

Hooked? Make it personal and check out BCFM’s 7th Annual CSA Fair on Feb. 24 from 6pm to 8pm at Sanitas Brewing. All of these farms and more will be present to provide deeper dig into their CSA offerings. Weigh your options over a craft beer and dinner. Either way, we know you’ll leave with the answers you need to sign up. Also enjoy a door prize giveaway, if there wasn’t enough incentive.