Community Support Agriculture

Community Support Agriculture

Part of Ep. 904 The Winter Garden

Visit the Vermont Valley Community Farm, a Dane County Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm owned by Barb and Dave Perkins. The 20-acre farm hosts seasonal events such as the spring pea pick, the corn boil, the pumpkin pick and the pesto fest.  Barb Perkins notes that CSAs are usually organic and she stresses that eating locally supports family farms and local economies.

Premiere date: Dec 26, 2001

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is a great garden for kids of all ages. Not all of us are able to grow our own fresh produce. Some of us don't have room, some of us don't have time, and some of us just aren't physically able. I'd like to offer up this next segment as a wonderful gift idea for a gardener in any family who's craving fresh produce. We're at Vermont Valley Community Farm in Dane County, and this is Barbara Perkins. Barb, you and your husband own this wonderful chunk of land, and you're part of this CSA movement. Can you tell me what that is?

Barbara:
Sure, CSA stands for Community Support Agriculture, and it's a way to purchase fresh produce directly from a farm. At the beginning of the growing season an individual or family puts there money in the hands of the farmer, pays for the share up front, and then every week throughout the growing season receives a box of produce.

Shelley:
Now this is happening nationwide, and it's big in Wisconsin. About how many CSAs are in Wisconsin?

Barbara:
Wisconsin has over 50 CSAs. We're in the top five of number of CSAs in the nation.

Shelley:
Now, are CSAs usually organic?

Barbara:
They are usually organic. I don't know of one that isn't.

Shelley:
Well, organic is one reason to be a member, fresh produce is another. But there's other reasons for people to want to get involved in something like this.

Barbara:
Supporting the local economy, knowing where your food is coming from are a couple of other reasons.

Shelley:
And what kind of people do you see here at Vermont Valley? What kind of members do you have?

Barbara:
We see a wide variety. There are professionals, there are students, there are a large group of older people who purchase food from CSA because it reminds them of the food that they ate as young children when someone in the family was connected to a farm. We also have a lot of families with young children. They tend to be the people that come out to the farm. Most often they want their kids to know where their food is coming from, who's growing it, and come out and see what a farm looks like.

Shelley:
And you actually have festivals to encourage the families to come out more too don't you.

Barbara:
We do as well as most other CSAs that I'm aware of do also. We have a pea pick in the Spring, we have a corn boil, we have a pumpkin pick, and we have a pesto fest in September.

Shelley:
Now that sounds like the one for me. What happens at the Pesto Fest?

Barbara:
It's a lot of fun. We go out into the fields and we harvest basil, we bring the basil back to the farm, stand around picking the leaves of off the basil and then we bring out food processors and people bring out ingredients and the farm supplies some ingredients and we make pesto for the rest of the afternoon and we sit down and eat it.

Shelley:
Eat until you're silly, it sounds like a wonderful way to do it. Now how many families, how many people are you actually feeding with your farm?

Barbara:
This season we have about 530 families.

Shelley:
And how many acres?

Barbara:
You may be surprised, we're growing the food on less than 20 acres of land.

Shelley:
Now that seems much smaller, I would've expected a big spread for some reason.

Barbara:
Vegetable growing is very intensive, very labor intensive.

Shelley:
Now in addition to being involved, speaking of labor intensive, to purchasing a share, you have a way that I could actually work for my share too, is that right?

Barbara:
We do. If somebody wants to work once a week on the farm in exchange for their delivery of produce we call a worker's share membership, they can come out four hours a week through the entire growing season, which is 21 weeks on our farm this season, and work in the heat, work in the cold, work in the rain, and get their produce. They get very involved and they're really an important part of the farm.

Shelley:
And you have another special program for people who can't afford it.

Barbara:
Yeah, we have a low-income assistance fund on our farm so that if somebody would like to be a member of a CSA and can't afford it, we can subsidize and will subsidize the share. So we want CSA to be available to anybody who wants to be a member.

Shelley:
What do we get, what do you grow here on your 20 acres?

Barbara:
We grow about 50 different kinds of vegetables and some fruits and some herbs. We're growing a wide variety.

Shelley:
So a typical box as a regular member, what would my share, what would my box look like once a week?

Barbara:
A typical mid-summer box would include tomatoes, peppers, onion, cucumber, zucchini, potatoes, garlic, green beans, quite a wide variety.

Shelley:
So enough to really experiment with and to feed a family for a week.

Barbara:
Yeah, our standard share is intended to feed a family with two adults and some small children.

Shelley:
Is there anything you'd like to add to this?

Barbara:
You know people often ask me, what can I do as an individual to make a difference? I don't like what I'm seeing, Wisconsin family farms are disappearing everyday, and one thing you can do to support agriculture in Wisconsin is to join a CSA farm. That way, you are supporting the farmer and helping the farmer stay on the land.

Shelley:
And keeping local food local.

Barbara:
And supporting your local economy, right.

Shelley:
Thanks Barb.

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