|Andy Grant has fresh produce he’d like to “share.”|
Andy Grant is a national innovator cultivating ways for consumers to buy directly from their local farmer. Called Community Support Agriculture (CSA), the program gives consumers incentives to pre-pay for the season’s locally-produced vegetables, herbs, eggs, meats, flowers or fruit; direct from the farmer. In return the farmer has an income he can depend on and supporters who are invested in the outcome of each season’s crop.
“I believe this has the potential to be the solution not only for those who want fresh, local produce and who want to support thriving agriculture but also for us as farmers. Our CSA members are basically our crop insurance. They are sharing the risk and challenges with us through thick and thin. This is a huge incentive for me as the farmer. If we don’t perform, we lose customers. We’re in this together.”
Grant Family Farms, located near Ft. Collins, signs up participants early in the year before staff are tied up 16-hours a day in the field harvesting and packaging. A buyer purchases one or more “food shares” which is a box of produce delivered once a week to a large number of Front Range pickup points from Cheyenne to Colorado Springs.
Grant makes sure the CSA members are given the best of each week’s harvest before the remainder is sent to the wholesale market. Prices are lower than the grocery store. “Shareholders” can visit the farm learning more about the production process and develop a relationship with the farm staff.
If you purchased a “single veggie share” for $520, Grant will deliver eight to 10 veggies for $20.23 a week for the 26 week Colorado growing season, usually June through November. If you added a “half dozen egg share” you would spend an additional $3 a week.
“A lot more people could join a CSA,” Grant added, “but they have been misled to think they can have a tomatoe any time of the year. From June on we provide lots of lettuce, cilantro, radishes and onions but no tomatoes. They aren’t ready. If you’re not used to purchasing foods in season you will ask ‘where are my tomatoes?’ Wait until August and September and we’ll give you great tomatoes.
“We grow more than 200 varieties of vegetables and try to keep a nice selection in the box every week. We have learned that we better have pretty damn good tomatoes and sweet corn when it’s ready because people really crave that. They crave home-grown tomatoes. We pay a lot of attention to those two items.”
Another benefit to the customer is the freshly-picked produce travels less than 100 miles. The average produce from Mexico and California travels 1,500 miles to get to most grocery stores.
|Freshly picked onions ready to distribute.|
According to LocalHarvest.org there are more than 4,000 CSA farms in the US. Enrollment is growing at about 20 percent a year, according to the Organic Consumers Association. Grant Family Farms is one of the more successful CSAs in the U.S.
“I will contend that in 20 years, except for a growing number of community-supported farms like ours, there won’t be any vegetables grown in the U.S. It will all be grown in Mexico and then trucked across the border. So the question becomes–who is your farmer? Where did this food come from? “
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