Farms and shoppers connect at local CSA fair

Susan France

At the second annual Community Supported Agriculture fair, Boulder residents came seeking a greater connection to local food and farmers and exploring options to foster a relationship for the growing season with a single farm.

“What I think is really cool about CSA is you sort of thrive and perish with the farmer,” says Mary Rochelle of Pastures of Plenty, a local farm north of Niwot. “You’re really tied to them. It’s really cool to understand that, you know, if there is a really big hail storm and it pulverizes the lettuce in the fields, you’re not gonna have lettuce that week and you’re gonna have to wait another week. Doing the CSA, for me personally, it’s been really cool to see the impact that the environment and other factors, when they affect the farm, they effect the people who are shareholders, too, so you feel very much connected to the farmer.”

Boulder-based Local Food Shift Group hosted the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) fair on Saturday, March 15, where patrons shopped local farms and other local food-related businesses with their produce needs for the upcoming season in mind. Some meat and dairy CSAs were also available.

Through CSAs, individuals can purchase shares in or pledge support to a local farm and receive regular payments of produce. Many local farms with CSA programs also offer other benefits to their members: cooking classes, volunteer opportunities and opportunities to bring children to the farm.

A CSA program can benefit farmers by providing an avenue for the literal seed money for the upcoming season. By purchasing CSA shares, members of farms’ CSA programs enable farmers to make necessary pre-season investments in their farms without having to resort to traditional loans.

“It’s kind of like public radio, where our members are our most secure source of funding,” says Amy Tisdale of Red Wagon Organic Farm. “We have a ton of expenses [before the summer], you know, seeds, we have labor now, any other farm supplies.”

“Your CSA is your operating loan, really,” says Tisdale’s partner Wyatt Barnes. “It’s a huge funding thing, it saves all of us.”

While the program provides necessary capital to local farms, especially new ones, shoppers cited an interest in building a connection to farmers and local food as their motivation for considering a CSA.

Rose Ruggles came to the fair, baby in arms, looking to compare CSA prices to farmers’ market prices.

“We like going to the farmers’ market and going to the individual farms, just to give him that experience, to see were food comes from and talk with the farmers” says Ruggles, nodding at her infant son.

“I was really try ing to find out if the price of a CSA is comparable to going to the farmers’ market. … Do I want to go to farmers’ market, or the farms, or have it delivered?” Her decision? “I want to go to the farm. I really like that experience,” Ruggles says. “I like going to pick our fruits and veggies, see the animals. I love it, just interacting with the farmers and hearing their philosophy of growing food.”

University of Colorado Boulder freshman Courtlyn Carpenter came hoping to find the most convenient CSA pickup locations. Some farms have multiple CSA pickup locations, in addition to the option of going straight to the farm to retrieve produce. Carpenter says she did not want to have to drive outside Boulder to pick up her shares, but still prefers CSA over the convenience of a grocery store.

“I think it’s fun to get such a large variety of produce every week and just figuring out what to cook with it, I think that’s a lot of fun,” she says. “I’m definitely a proponent of the local food movement.

Buying local food is better environmentally and also I think it tastes better.”

This is the second year Local Food Shift Group has organized a spring CSA fair in Boulder. After seeing a similar CSA event in Fort Collins, the organization’s head, Michael Brownlee, decided to bring the spring CSA fair to Boulder. Local Food Shift now takes part in organizing the Fort Collins CSA fair, the Boulder CSA fair and an even larger CSA fair in Denver on Tuesday, March 25.

“Marketing is hard for [local farms],” Brownlee says. “And it’s hard for people to figure out, if they want a CSA, how to choose a farmer. So we wanted to create a space where they could come, they could meet lots of farms, get to know them and sort of zero in on where they want to sign up.” 

The fair also included food-related organizations that did not offer CSAs, such as The Second Kitchen food cooperative and The Urban Farm Company of Colorado.

“There’s just such a growing interest  people have in buying direct from farmer, finding out who their farmers are and how they farm,” says Brownlee. “It’s fun, it’s exciting.”  



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