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Thursday, June 24,2010

Reap what county farms offer

By Charmaine Ortega Getz

Think you’ve seen everything Boulder County farms offer at your favorite grocery store or farmers’ market? As you read this, boxes of fresh, local farm products are being picked up or delivered to people who have memberships in a community supported agriculture program.

Generally, in exchange for an advance fee, a farm will provide a season’s worth of “shares,” usually a certain number of boxes of fresh produce that are supposed to be enough to feed from two to four people. Shares could also be honey, eggs, meat, flowers, herbs, baked goods or whatever else the farm produces, in season. Not all of the farms are certified organic, but the emphasis is on sustainable and responsible farming.

Each farm has a finite number of shares available; some offer halfshares or other arrangements such as including volunteer work as payment. Some CSA programs offer custom shares, with members able to choose what to take, others are a take-it-orleave- it proposition. Bad weather, pests, or sometimes just plain bad luck could mean a limited or skipped share, which is part of the risk of “sharing” a farm’s fortunes.

The idea is that the long-term benefits will be worth the gamble. It must be working; Boulder County’s EAT LOCAL! Online resource guide and directory says that CSA shares have increased exponentially since its campaign to raise public awareness for eating locally produced food was launched in 2007.

Farm dinners, restaurant-quality meals chock full of the freshest ingredients, are another way of enjoying the harvest with less commitment. From casual to upscale, the dinners are sometimes created by chefs from the very restaurants these farms are providing with their regular fixin’s.

Not just food, by the way, these events provide tours, talks, sometimes live music and wine.

They can be as relatively modest as Frog Belly Farm’s upcoming four-course meal for 40 guests at $75 each on June 26 (seats still available) to the lavish Munson Farms banquet now in its third year of serving 200 diners at $210 a pop. (Tickets for the July 25 event, arranged by the national farm dinner sponsor Outstanding in the Field, are already sold out.) Another fresh innovation offered by some farms today is summer camp for kids.

No sleep-away accommodations, and few of the things you might otherwise associate with traditional summer camp, this is more about introducing children to the basics of farming, animal care and an appreciation for growing food. And that’s not all — some farms in Boulder County are also offering tours, workshops, festivals, even concerts.

t’s definitely worth a little digging to reap the benefits of today’s farms. But even if all you’re looking for is an old-fashioned farm stand, know that this tradition still thrives. Stands are now open or soon will be, so it’s worth the drive to check ’em out frequently, or scan their websites for schedules, product lists and news.

For farms, dairies and ranches offering these goodies to the public, see Boulder County’s EAT LOCAL! website directory at www.eatlocalguide. com/bouldercounty/the-10- year-eat-local-campaign.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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No Registration Required

Hi folks,

If you are participating in a CSA, or have, I have added the ability to rate a CSA to http://coloradocsas.info. Just find the farm share that you have particpated in (for example, Cure Organic Farm here: http://coloradocsas.info/csas/view/Cure_Organic_Farm) and click on the stars below the contact info. 

Good experience, bad experience, it's all helpful to other people trying to find the right CSA.