Community Supported Agriculture – Two Models, One Goal

produce box Klesick 2012 editedNABC helps to “bring the farm to market” in many ways – including through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Two CSA programs are just about to launch deliveries for 2013 – the Evergreen CSA operated by Klesick Family Farm for its second year, and the pilot North Whidbey CSA, developed by the Whidbey Conservation District in partnership with NABC.

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture – a means of directly supporting a single farm by pre-purchasing shares of that farm’s seasonal harvest. However, these two projects involve multiple farms, providing a longer season and greater variety of products to subscribers. Another unique attribute of the Evergreen CSA is the delivery service. Rather than subscribers traveling to the farm or a rural drop site, the farm comes to them: delivering to their employer, or right to their home.

In its role as technical assistance provider, NABC worked with Klesick Family Farm to work out the Evergreen CSA’s share options, payment system, and communication strategy, and provide both administrative and marketing support. NABC then engaged the interest of Snohomish County Administration and the Providence Regional Medical Center Everett to promote the program to employees. Box pick-up points were negotiated at the Administrative Campus parking garage and the Volunteers of America Everett Food Bank with help from key partners: Linda Neunzig, Snohomish County Agriculture Coordinator; David Renne, PRMCE Ergonomics, Injury Prevention, & Wellness Specialist; and Leann Geiger, Director of the Volunteers of America Everett Food Bank.

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Tristan Klesick, owner and operator of Klesick Family Farm, explained what the program has meant to his and other local farms. “The timing was perfect.” he said. “Summer is usually the off-season for our farm-raised products. This CSA program was a welcome revenue boost during typically slow months. Plus, it’s good for the farms we buy from to round out the inventory we grow ourselves,” he added.

Inspired by last year’s success with the Evergreen CSA program, the Whidbey Conservation District approached NABC for help in developing a similar program on the island. The North Whidbey CSA is about to begin its first season in the Oak Harbor community. The primary goals are to increase the availability of locally grown produce to area families, particularly those affiliated with Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and to improve the long-term viability of Whidbey Island farms. NABC partners on this project as development advisor, based on experience with the Snohomish County-based CSA, and continues to provide fiscal management.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe USDA has identified the Oak Harbor area, including the Naval Air Station, as an area where many residents have limited access to affordable healthful food. CSA programs are one approach to not only address this issue, but to also provide a more consistent market for small farms. A departure from the Evergreen CSA concept, the North Whidbey CSA program involves cooperative marketing between five Whidbey farms from Oak Harbor and Central Whidbey. These farms are collaborating to provide a breadth of produce variety and to raise awareness within the community about their operations and products.

Sarah Cassatt, Whidbey Island Conservation District, explained what she sees as the true value of this program. “The CSA directly benefits its members with fresh, healthy, and affordable food and the contributing farms with increased, steady financial support for the season” she said. “Consumers and farmers have the opportunity to get to know each other, which allows the consumer to learn more about the food they eat and the farmers to learn more about the preferences of their customers. Indirectly, by supporting local farms, the CSA also helps sustain the long-term viability of farms and the much-desired rural character of Whidbey Island,” she explained.

Finding new ways to help farmers retain more of the profits of their work, providing fresh avenues to the marketplace, and helping to create regional opportunity for agriculture, is the goal of NABC’s work. These two CSA operations, though serving different communities and organized through different business structures, both contribute towards fulfilling that mission. For information about the Evergreen CSA or the North Whidbey CSA please contact the NABC office at 360-336-3727 or by email info@agbizcenter.org.

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