For those of you not privy to the emotional roller coaster that a CSA subscription can bring into one’s life, “CSA” stands for “Community Supported Agriculture“. It is a subscription system of farm management that emphasizes direct food distribution from farm to table. Consumers buy a share in a local farm for the season (usually 12-20 weeks in the summer months) and receive a weekly box of fresh vegetables (it may also include fruit or flowers, depending on the farm). The contents of the box change through the weeks as different vegetables are ready for market.
The CSA arrangement has great advantages for the farm and for the consumer. The farm has a guaranteed market for it’s products and is paid in advance by the subscriptions, which provides the farm more financial stability. The consumer benefits by receiving farm fresh produce direct from the fields at a great cost advantage over purchasing through a traditional grocery store. Some CSA subscribers are also attracted by the fact that grocery decisions are made for them by the farm and its natural growing cycle.
The benefits of CSA farm arrangements to the surrounding community are enormous. Local food for local people, fresh from the farm to the consumer within days. According to the eco-lifestyle website Living Green, “American food travels an average of 1,500 to 2,500 miles from farm to table…these miles are costly to the environment. They are, in fact, among the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.” CSA farms are consistent with the “buy local” ethos, supporting the local economy by keeping jobs and dollars at home. Small local farms instead of multinational agri-business – you know anything that cuts the Corporate Ogre (Archers Daniel Midland, Nabisco, Dupont, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, Nestle) out of the financial equation gets our enthusiastic support! If you are interested in learning more about CSA farms in your area, the site Local Harvest has a national CSA referral service. Below are listed a few CSA farms in the Thurston County area. They are all accepting new members for this summer season, and some offer pick-up locations in Portland, Tacoma and Seattle.
Common Ground began as a CSA-only farm 23 years ago and have no other markets (restaurants, farm stand, etc.) Each year they plan their planting for a certain number of CSA customers, and away they go! Their season began in mid-May and continues until the first week in November. They have two sizes of shares, one for a one or two person household and one family-sized. If you join now the sliding scale rate will be pro-rated based on the weeks remaining in the season. This women-founded and managed farm does not have time to maintain a website, contact Julie Puhich for more details about their CSA: (360) 866-9527.
Helsing Junction Farm
You may recognize the Helsing Junction Farm from the annual Sleep Over celebration K hosts there every summer (coming up August 16-18). They are also champions at organic agriculture: “Our primary goal is to provide our CSA members with the most nutritionally complete vegetables and fruit we can grow. To that end, we make caring for our soil a priority. We test our soil twice a year so that we can correct any imbalance and we apply trace minerals, cover crop extensively and practice minimal tillage. Vegetables grown in healthy, nutrient rich soil look and taste amazing!”
Garden-Raised Bounty is an organization that since 1993 has “worked alongside volunteers and gardeners to build more than 2,300 backyard and community gardens, host workshops, and provide support, training, and resources for new gardeners to find success. Our goal is for gardeners to build the skills and connections to organize good food projects in their own neighborhoods.” Their CSA is designed for “folks who want to support our work as well as receive great produce and flowers! For 16 weeks from late June to early October, you’ll pick up your weekly share of healthy, local produce at the GRuB Farm in West Olympia and we’ll also send good food home with youth in our GRuB School Program. These same youth tend the farm, harvest for the CSA and are responsible for the high quality of your boxes.”
Located in southwest Olympia, Kirsop Farm is dedicated to providing affordable organic produce while preserving the agricultural heritage of the county. “Your support of our farm enables us to continue to support others doing good work in our community. Kirsop Farm has long been involved with Garden Raised Bounty, South of the Sound Community Farm Land Trust, and others.”
“Our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is a partnership between a local farm and nearby residents. CSA members join by buying a “share” in the farm in the early spring. This provides upfront money allowing us to purchase seeds and get the season started without having to take out loans. You can feel confident that your food dollars are truly fostering small-scale, environmentally, responsible agriculture.”
“We are a small workers’ collective living and growing vegetables on five acres in the Chehalis River Valley near Rochester, Washington. Our work combines a love of land with a commitment to a lifestyle that celebrates our passion for delicious, local, organic food.” Fair enough.
Rising River FarmEach week from mid-June through October, Rising River CSA members’ weekly boxes can be picked up at the farm or are delivered to one of many convenient pick-up sites throughout the greater Olympia area, including the Olympia Farmers Market. “Our members enjoy over 100 varieties of organically grown vegetables and culinary herbs in addition to recipes and weekly CSA newsletters.”
Calliope FarmThis farm has quickly become an Olympia landmark: “At Calliope we tend our vegetables, herbs, fruit and livestock in order to share that same love of good, wholesome, healthy food with the Olympia community!” Their CSA begins this week with several pick-up locations around town, so hop on board.
Pigman’s Organic Produce Patch
“Six acres of certified organic produce in the lush Nisqually Valley. Huge variety of vegetables and fruits available April through December. Our produce is available at the Olympia Farmers Market, our farm and our CSA. U-Pick strawberries, raspberries and pumpkins. Always call ahead to check availability. Pick ups are Thursday and Saturday at the Olympia Farmers Market or Friday PM at the farm.”
Newaukum Valley FarmThis family farm has been growing organic vegetables in Lewis county for over a decade. Their CSA plan differs from the traditional model. Instead of a weekly share, you buy into their “CSA BUCKS” pre-paid credit option with which you purchase items from their three market locations.