Shopping locally and learning about CSAs

I went shopping at Farmhouse Table Produce at 10 N. Mission St. today. They are a part of a Community Supported Agriculture program (also known as a CSA). Basically it’s like a co-op, they coordinate a network of local farmers and provide a central location for all their produce, fruit, meat, milk, cheese, bread, etc.

CSA Manager Allision Neher said that unlike a traditional CSA – which typically receives product from one farm – they get their product from a variety of farmers.

Allison Neher, Farmhouse Table manager

She said they have about ten major producers who provide a majority of their stock, and as many as 50 overall. Geographically the farms stretch as far north as Okanogan and as far south as Yakima but most of their stock comes from the Leavenworth and Chelan areas.

They’re focused on eating local as a way to improve sustainability, reduce our dependency on fossil fuel and support the regional economy. Most of their food is organic, though not all of it is, and they are open five months a year.

Neher said they provide farmers with the money they need to get started.

“It gives them capital up front so the farmers can count on the purchases,” she said. “It gives them some financial stability.”

She said it’s a long and expensive process to get organically certified – taking three years in all.

Farmhouse is known for their produce boxes, which include an assortment of food in season at any given time. People usually sign up to get a box a week for the entire season and Neher said about 200 people participate in the program. The basic box is $21 a week and is designed for two. The larger box is $31 a week and is for families or people who just really like their veggies.

She said the boxes are an economical way to eat local. And I think she’s got a point. I bought a loaf of bread, a pound of hamburger, a 3 oz. package of mixed greens, three pears, two sweet peppers, an onion, beets, carrots, beans and farrow. My bill came to $32.17.

According to their brochure, a typical box would come with a head of garlic, a cucumber, two green peppers, a sweet onion, a half pound bunch of Swiss chard, two eggplants, four eats of corn, two summer squash, two peaches and a pound of cherries. No meat, but a good deal comparatively.

I also made plans to go to Crown S Ranch, LLC in Winthrop, Wa. next week to spent the night in their “haycation” house and work on the farm, which produces organically-raised meat, poultry, pork and eggs.

The farm is owned and operated by Louis Sukovaty, his wife Jennifer Argraves, and their family. Both have a background in engineering and strong feelings about the state of food production:

“Our trouble as a society comes from trying to make a buck so we can buy something so the next guy can make a buck and buy something and so on, especially when the things we buy are supposed to make life easier for us – to make less work. There’s nothing wrong with work,” Sukovaty writes on the farm’s website.

Speaking with Jennifer on the phone she stressed the animal husbandry aspect of their operation and said that through the marriage of traditional husbandry and new technology they are making a new model of sustainable agriculture.

Sounds interesting to me. Can’t wait to see it for myself.

Here are photos from Farmhouse Table and some of the things I got there.

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