CSAs Make Agriculture Accessible – April 21, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gail Gourley

Eye Correspondent

First of two parts.

ARCATA – For those seeking fresh, local produce, purchasing at farmers’ markets is one way to connect with the farmers who grow the food. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs at local farms take the process a step further.

Three CSA farms available to Arcata-area residents are DeepSeeded Community Farm, Redwood Roots Farm, and the Arcata Educational Farm.

DeepSeeded Community Farm

Eddie Tanner has been farming in this area for a dozen years, but a year and a half ago he made the leap and began his own farm on nine and one-half leased acres at the west end of Stewart Avenue in Arcata.

“Because we’re such a new farm, we’re always developing, always growing,” Tanner said. One of this winter’s new projects was establishing about three quarters of an acre of fruit trees, mostly apples with some pears and plums, as well as raspberries and blueberries.

Although Tanner does sell produce at the Farmers’ Market and to some restaurants as well, DeepSeeded is primarily a Community Supported Agriculture farm. “Most of the produce that we grow is distributed right on site through seasonal memberships,” said Tanner.

Eddie Tanner, left, at DeepSeeded Community Farm's booth at the Farmers' Market. Photo by TMc | Eye

“Our main season is 26 weeks, and households make a commitment to come by every week for a basket of produce,” he said. “We grow a wide diversity of produce and every week of the harvest season we have somewhere between eight and 14 produce items that are all harvested, washed and ready for people to come by and pick up right from the farm. We also grow a ‘you-pick’ flower garden and a strawberry patch for kids. It’s kind of a fun scene. You come out here for your produce and you get to wander around, pick flowers, kids get to run around and everything is just super fresh, right from the fields – it just comes right from the farm to your hands.”

The six-month season starts in late May and runs into November. A separate six-week winter harvest begins just before Thanksgiving. “We harvest on Tuesdays and Fridays so members choose one of those two days to come pick up their produce. Produce is available all afternoon from 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and then rolling over into the next morning if you’re unable to make that afternoon pick-up time,” Tanner said.

The cost is $24 a week, or $624 for the season. “I’m flexible with payments.” Tanner said, adding, “it helps me to have money up front. One of the concepts of CSA is that members can help the farmer avoid seasonal debt by paying more up front. But I’m also flexible with payment plans.”

Tanner will offer 160 shares this year. “I still have spots available now but I expect that they’ll be full by the end of April,” he said.

“One of the things I Iike about having people come to me is that I can build in some amount of choice into the pick-up, between varieties of lettuce, or eggplants versus peppers, so there’s a little bit more choice that I can build in,” said Tanner. “It’s really great for me to be able to meet the people who are eating my produce and to build these community relationships.”

People can participate more deeply by taking part in an internship at the farm. “My internship is a 15-week work exchange, basically. I trade knowledge and vegetables for time in the garden,” said Tanner. Participants commit to two three-and-a half-hour shifts in the garden and a one-hour lecture/discussion over a farm lunch each week. “I take some of my time to lead in-field training discussions and do that weekly lecture and actually work on some skill building, and send people home with veggies. And in exchange I get more hands out here to help me do what I need to do.”

Tanner can accommodate eight people for each of two sessions. The first session is full, but spaces are available for the second one starting in mid-July.

“Really, the way I learned to grow food was by working on farms,” said Tanner. “Just going and working on farms is a great way to learn. The more time you spend with your hands in the soil, the more it rubs off on you.”

Tanner also teaches classes and community workshops. He’s currently teaching a gardening class through Humboldt State’s Extended Education program and recently spoke at the Plan It Green conference.“I’ve always enjoyed teaching so that’s something I do pretty regularly,” he said.

Additionally, he’s the author of The Humboldt Kitchen Gardener, a guide to growing fruits and vegetables organically in our bioregion. “My goal was to make a book that you could read in an afternoon and feel better equipped to go out and succeed in your garden,” said Tanner.

“We have a great community of farmers here,” he said. “Between the Farmers’ Markets and the other CSAs in this area there really are a lot of ways for people to get produce right from the farmers. I think that’s really a blessing here. For the size of our community we have an exceptionally high number of farms.”

For more information about CSA shares or internships at DeepSeeded Community Farm, visit arcatacsa.com, call (707) 825-8033 or e-mail deepseeded@gmail.com.

Next week: Redwood Roots Farm and the Arcata Educational Farm.

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