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Shameless plug for Community-Supported Agriculture

You can enjoy locally-grown organic produce for $7.50 per person per week, from the Homeless Garden Project / Women's Organic Flower Enterprise.

This article is not so much an advertisement as an exploration of alternatives. For some time, I had been planning to write a story about unaffordable food prices and unhealthy gimmick foods at New Leaf and The Food Bin, the two "progressive" markets in the Downtown Santa Cruz area. Instead, I am going to suggest an alternative: the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program of the Homeless Garden Project / Women's Organic Flower Enterprise.

Basically, you sign-up to receive a portion of the harvest from the Homeless Garden farm. Every Friday afternoon, you pick up your produce at the WOFE store (foot of Washington Street, near the Municipal Wharf; Metro's Route 19 bus, and the free summertime Beach Shuttle, both stop there).

I had wanted to try this for several years, but the pick-up point used to be at Natural Bridges -- not a good location for folks like me, who don't drive. This year, the pick-up point is very convenient!
This article is not so much an advertisement as an exploration of alternatives. For some time, I had been planning to write a story about unaffordable food prices and unhealthy gimmick foods at New Leaf and The Food Bin, the two "progressive" markets in the Downtown Santa Cruz area. Instead, I am going to suggest an alternative: the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program of the Homeless Garden Project / Women's Organic Flower Enterprise.*

Basically, you sign-up to receive a portion of the harvest from the Homeless Garden farm. Every Friday afternoon, you pick up your produce at the WOFE store (foot of Washington Street, near the Municipal Wharf; Metro's Route 19 bus, and the free summertime Beach Shuttle, both stop there).

I had wanted to try this for several years, but the pick-up point used to be at Natural Bridges -- not a good location for folks like me, who don't drive. This year, the pick-up point is very convenient!

You pay in advance for the entire 22-week season. The season has already started, so the price will be pro-rated when you sign up. There is an installment plan that allows you to pay about 3/4 up-front and 1/4 in mid-August. Credit cards are accepted. You can buy a half share (suitable for 2 people) or a whole share (suitable for 4 people). My husband and I have chosen the half share. Our prorate price was $294, which works out to about $15 per week, or $7.50 per person.

I went for the first time yesterday, Friday, June 25. I came home with a very heavy bag of fresh, organic produce:

- lettuce
- red cabbage
- chard
- zucchini (2)
- parsley
- rosemary
- fava beans (2/3 of a pound)
- baby carrots
- strawberries **
- beats
- garlic/onion hybrid (not sure of the proper name)
- small bouquet of flowers

I took a picture of what we received this week. All this for about $15. CSA is amazing!

There is a Web site for Community Supported Agriculture. The information is out of date, but you can still get a feel for the program. Go to:

www.infopoint.com/sc/orgs/garden/csa.html

The telephone number is 831 426 3609. The staff were very helpful when I called. As of June 25, there were still shares available.

Notes

* Though the universe of non-profits and "helping agencies" has problems of its own (Robert Norse said some interesting things about this on one of his radio programs, and I quite agree with him; see also the book "Sweet Charity"), I would still rather see my grocery money go to the Homeless Garden Project / Women's Organic Flower Enterprise than to New Leaf or The Food Bin. After three years of living in Santa Cruz, I have a very positive impression of HGP/WOFE. Note that this is an impression, only.

** A friend of mine who worked for a large producer of organic and non-organic strawberries tells me that all strawberry plants originate in soil that has been treated with methyl bromide. The organic ones are later transplanted. My friend claims that there is no such thing as an organic berry.

I am not affiliated with HGP/WOFE, and this article reflects only my own experiences/opinions.
 
 


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Comments

Re: Shameless plug for Community-Supported Agriculture

I'd done shares for years with local growers but was never able to get enough of what I wanted (leafy greens).

I would like to see your picture but it seems to be missing.
 

Re: Leafy Greens + Agriculture

I don’t know your specific climate out westaways, but here near the east coast lettuce + bok choy ( leafy greens ) are easy to grow. Bok choy can be grown most of the season ( we have ~ 190 frost free days here ) and lasts a little beyond. Lettuce, on another hand, is heat sensitive, and, particularly leaf lettuce, wont take prolonged temperatures above 75 or 80 F. The lettuce season can be significantly extended, though, by

1. selecting the varieties carefully ( there are ~ 600 types of lettuce on the seed market in the US alone !) and

2. growing it in moderate to deep shade, say, with poll beans or corn blocking the afternoon light.

Advice : 1. Don’t be afraid to do some research, to put your two cents in, and 2. Don’t be afraid to pitch in. Talk is cheap; where agriculture is really aching is hands to help when the help is needed.

Ya struck a cord ; I grow the leafy stuff myself. Good news, the CSA is. Good luck and enjoy.
 

Re: Shameless plug for Community-Supported Agriculture

Also, not to downplay the good work done by the Homeless Garden Project, but the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF, website: www.caff.org/regions/central_coast.shtml) has a pamphlet that has the dates and locations of farmers markets, as well as contact info for all the CSAs in our area. They also describe what it is that the farm specializes in, so if you like more leafy greens, choose a CSA from a farm that specializes in them.

Also, Farmer Blue-- thanks for the suggestions. Research is key, and finding the right CSA helps. However, no one should have difficulty finding lettuce in this area: Steinbeck Country has been called the Salad Bowl for good reason, since I think more lettuce is grown here than any other location.

Thanks for the info and the plug for CSAs!!
 

Community Alliance & Buy Local

Thanks for the link.

Some concerns about the "Buy Local" campaign:

The Web site says,

"Local food supports local farm families. Fewer than one million Americans now claim farming as their primary occupation (less than 1%). Farming is a vanishing lifestyle. And no wonder: the farmer today gets less than 10 cents of the retail food dollar. Local farmers who sell directly to consumers cut out the many middlemen and get full retail price for their food - which means farm families can afford to stay on the farm, doing the work they love."

It Web site also lists New Leaf as a participant in the campaign.

I cannot afford to buy produce at New Leaf. Yesterday, a small container of blueberries was going for $5.19. That's nuts!

Setting aside my gripe about high prices, I still have no evidence that "Buy Local" farmers treat farmworkers differently than do other farmers.

My guess is that "Buy Local" is a bunch of rich white folks who continue to take advantage of latino farmworkers, but who are clever enough to spend money on a PR campaign so we don't think about that as we savor our $5.19 blueberries.

I wouldn't mind paying extra for food (within reason) if the money ended up in the pockets of farmworkers.

I don't much care about enriching farm owners. That's what agricultural subsidies, restrictive import policies, marketing boards, and federal school lunches are for.

[Hopefully my skepticism is unjustified!]
 

2nd Week Harvest

Here's what we received on July 2, our second week in the Homeless Farm and Garden / Women's Organic Flower Enterprise Community Support Agriculture (CSA) program:

- generous bouquet of flowers (last week's is still going strong, too)
- strawberries
- iceberg lettuce
- zucchuni (2)
- tomato
- basil (huge bunch!)
- marjoram
- baby carrots
- kale
- green beens (1/2 pound)
- tomatillos (1/2 pound)
- green onions

This represents a half share.
 

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