By: Kathy Kwong
The Corner Market, located on River Rd, near chambers in Eugene, Oregon is open year round (dependent on available produce that year) to provide locally grown and seasonal produce. Penny Tyrell, owner of The Corner Market is also a previous CSA owner. Today, Tyrell is putting carrots and other goods on the stands for sale. Most of her produce goods come from Sweet Leaf Farm, located near Junction City, Oregon. Tyrell, says this year she has been able to stay open at least three days a week because of a good harvest. Previous years have proved not so profitable, Tyrell says.
With Oregon high on the charts for hunger in the U.S., community supported agriculture (CSA) seeks to provide healthy, local, and humanely raised food for all people regardless of income levels. The idea of consumer supported farming is slowly being introduced back into the lives of Americans while ensuring that even those combatting hard times have access to quality produced goods. According to organicconsumers.org, the number one barrier to access of local and organic foods was financial restrictions.
CSA supports farmers when consumers become shareholders with a chosen farm. A shareholder usually has options on how much food they wish to purchase in advance. There are full shares versus half shares, produce only, or dairy only and some farms even allow shareholders to create their own box when farmers put out boxes of food to choose from. Fees can then be paid upfront in weekly or monthly installments. The purpose is to support the farms financially with a pay it forward idea and in return consumers receive a box of goods from the farm they support, typically on a weekly basis. Wintergreen Farm is one CSA provider that provides financial assistance, subsidization and payment plans for people of different income levels.
Organic farming is costly. Among trying to sustain the high costs of producing pesticide, insecticide, and herbicide free foods, farmers have to consider environmental impacts as well. Water conservation, water runoff issues, preserving and preventing the soil from bacteria with “biodynamic” approaches are only part of the costs associated with producing natural, wholesome tasting foods. The cost to produce organically grown produce is reflected in the selling price but this can be due to the fact that government subsidies favor conventional farming. Fortunately, several CSA programs work with lower income families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), in order to ensure accessibility to all income levels and needs.
Eugene is surrounded by farmers and ranchers who produce quality organic fruit, produce, eggs, dairy products, and humanely raised livestock. Some of the farms have herbs, homemade jams, locally made honey, and desserts. Many of these surrounding area farms participate in CSA’s and offer seasonal grown produce and goods to their supporting members and customers.
The goods from these farms are also distributed to local farmers market and nearby stores. Best of all is the food can be delivered directly to your front door. There are also many farms that have drop off sites in and around Eugene. The service is convenient for families who may not have access to transportation or just want the convenience of great food delivered to their doorstep. For members who want to pick and choose what farmers put out for the program, they are welcome to pick up their baskets at the farm or drop-site.
(For a list of CSA farms and drop-sites near Eugene, please visit: http://www.localharvest.org/)
Markets and some of the larger chain stores are starting to carry more “organic” and natural products. Marc Trippet, produce manager at Friendly Street Market, says he orders his stores produce from a vendor with a 1 to 2 year advance order request.
“With the chain stores now carrying organic products, sometimes these guys (vendors) can’t even keep up with,” Trippet says.
Another store in Eugene that carries locally produced goods is Sundance Natural Foods. They sell a variety of seasonal and locally produced fruits and vegetables, among many other products. Their produce comes from a variety of the area farms depending on what is available as well as the price.
“We’ve had instances where vendors will try to give us products and say they were organic, but not certified and what not,” Nikolaus Kamrath, a Sundance produce clerk says. “So we’ve had to research and research and do some looking into it, but in the end we did go with the farm that provided quality produce.”
Kamrath says that Sundance will use a number of the farms for produce based on current circumstances and what they need. They work very closely with their vendors to receive the products they sell, he says.
During the winter, if joining a CSA is not an option for customers, there are also vendors around the Eugene area that provide winter produce.
Eating organic is not a new trend. In fact, it is the way people from around the world have been eating for a long time. Yet, traditional farming methods have been overrun by conventional ways in order to keep up with growing populations. The problem with mass-producing food is that quality comes second to quantity. Many of the farms around the Eugene area produce quality-grown products and humanely raised animal products with the help of their community. Some residents of Eugene believe that keeping the business in the community is their goal.
“We like to keep our business in the community. It’s important to us,” Jim Lobben says, as he leaves from Long’s Meat Market.
Long’s has been a part of Eugene for nearly 90 years. Their meats are provided by local ranches and humanely raised animals. Poultry from Long’s is hormone and antibiotic free. Beef and lamb are free-range grass fed or free-range finished with grain fed. (For a complete list of Long’s ranchers and providers: http://www.longsmeatmarket.com/meats.cfm).
“We’ve always had good luck with their meat. It’s really quality meat that we buy for special occasions. Today, we bought steaks and some cheese,” Lobben says.
Kids these days are being taught in classrooms on how to grow their own food, maintain what they’ve grown as well as helping to prepare and cook it themselves. Sigrid Leppert, the cook at Moss Street Children’s Center, has witnessed that method firsthand. The center has received an early sprouts program grant that provides the children the opportunity to grow, prepare and cook their own food. Leppert says the children are more likely to try foods that they are involved with, such as growing it and cooking it.
Leppert has been consuming organic products for over 20 years; she has her own garden and says that she believes in eating organic, natural foods. She tries to provide that for the kids at her school as much as possible so that they can reap the benefits of great, quality food.
Leppert, who does all the ordering for Moss Streets kitchen, joined with Wintergreen Farm’s CSA in the past to augment lunch programs at Moss St. However, due to time constraints and having to have menu’s prepared in advance, Leppert couldn’t continue with the CSA.
“I never knew what was coming and how much we would get. One week we would have carrots and two small pints of blueberries. During the summer, when we were most busy, I just couldn’t get enough of a supply,” Leppert says.
But for those adventurous, food lovers who enjoy trying new foods and recipes, CSA’s can provide an abundant selection of seasonal foods.
First time CSA member and University of Oregon, architecture major, Grace Bennett is reaping the rewards of the program.
“It’s been really fun to get so much food and figure out what to do with it,” Bennett says.
Bennett joined a CSA with Good Food Easy and Sweetwater Farm along with her roommates. She says it’s exciting to get a new box weekly and forced to try new produce and recipes. The subscription comes with a weekly newsletter that includes recipes sometimes using several of the packaged products.
For Bennett, she says she is now more conscious about food waste because she’s more aware of where it comes from and what goes into making the food. She makes less trips to the grocery store and impulse buying has subsided.
“It’s really convenient. They deliver it to a dropping site and I walk there to pick it up. In terms of the money paid upfront, it is definitely worth it. “Because starting up and beginning of the season is expensive for farmers, it is so important to have people in the community supporting them,” Bennett says.
Local Harvest is a site that allows users to find neighborhood and nationwide farmers’ markets, forums and other sources of sustainable products and information in your area. There are articles on specialty meats, spice and herb information, home garden and gifts, events, newsletters, blogs, recipes, etc. The list goes on and on. It is a great tool for community members looking for information about their local neighborhoods and what’s happening or perhaps where to buy certain foods and products. You can also be a member by signing up for their newsletter (http://www.localharvest.org/register.jsp).
Wintergreen farm Membership Information:
Since 1991, Winter Green Farm has offered a weekly box of organic produce fresh from our farm to your family.
• Enjoy over 40 different vegetables and berries with exceptional taste and quality
• Know and trust the source of your food
• Receive convenient neighborhood delivery
• Receive weekly newsletters with recipes and farm news
• Connect with the land that sustains you
• Improve your family’s health with good nutrition
• Experience hayrides, pumpkin patch visits, potlucks, and celebration at fun farm events
• Support a local Lane County farm committed to the environment and our community
Why Join the Community Farm?
The Community Farm provides you with healthy, locally grown produce. Every week, delicious vegetables and berries are harvested and delivered fresh to your neighborhood. In return, our farmers receive a fair economic return and respect for their skills. Membership supports land that is cared for using sustainable organic and biodynamic farming methods. Everyone is nourished by re-establishing the vital link in our community between food, farms, and families. As a Community Farm member, you also help support the production of healthy food grown at Winter Green Farm for families in need.
Throughout the season, we welcome you to visit “your” farm and get to know the land that sustains you and the people who grow your food. You can walk the farm, talk to farmers, and attend farm events. Members also receive weekly notes full of seasonal recipes and farm news.