Sunday marks the beginning of CSA Week, an annual event that encourages people to support local farms.
Under the Community Supported Agriculture model, customers pay a farm in spring to receive a weekly box filled with fruits and vegetables during the growing season.
“I encourage people to try it out if they like to cook or eat a lot of vegetables or opt for a healthier lifestyle,” said Kelly Peters, co-owner of Flat Tack Farm in Brush Prairie. “CSA membership also encourages saving money by eating at home.”
Over the years, CSAs have evolved from delivering a box filled with whatever the farmer harvested to customized orders. Many farmers also provide add-on options like mushrooms, bread, meat and hot sauce.
Websites like Harvie, Local Harvest, Barn 2 Door and Eat Local First provide tools to help customers find a CSA. Clark County Grown recently updated its website to include a list of farms offering CSAs this year.
Warren Neth, a marketing consultant and local food activist who worked on the list, encourages users to share information through the comment spaces to supplement information on the website. In addition, local food enthusiasts can use their social media posts to encourage others by adding the hashtag #clarkcountygrown.
“CSAs are one of the best ways to make sure your kitchen keeps up with the seasonality of local farms,” Neth said.
He advises CSA seekers to look for one with a conveniently located drop site. Consumers should also consider household produce consumption when registering for a CSA. Most farms offer half shares for smaller households or people who don’t eat a lot of vegetables.
In addition to providing startup costs for the season, CSAs help farmers prevent waste by accurately calculating how much to grow for the season.
Flat Tack Farm is using a website called Harvie to manage its CSA again this year. Harvie lets customers sign in and customize their weekly shares or add a vacation hold. Harvie also provides recipes and other information helpful to CSA members.
Flat Tack Farm owners Kelly Peters and Patrick Dorris are limiting their CSA program to 50 full shares and focusing on adding items so that customers can get most of the groceries they need in the box (12 or 23 weeks, $35 per week for the veggie lover and $45 for a family share). Bleu Door Bakery bread, Windy River Farms meat, and pantry products like honey, dry beans and Patrick’s hot sauces will all be offered as add-ons.
Flat Tack Farm’s weekly pickup sites include Pizzeria La Sorrentina in east Vancouver, Flat Tack Farm on Heathen Estates, Heathen Brewery in Salmon Creek and Heathen’s Feral Pub in downtown Vancouver.
Amber Baker of Red Truck Farm in Ridgefield is also preparing for the growing season.
“We do have an online store and farm stand as well, but we pack our CSA subscriptions first before offering produce in those other places,” Baker said. “We also have some items that we grow specifically for our CSA that we may not have in large quantities for our bigger customers like restaurants and grocery stores.”
Red Truck uses the Barn 2 Door website for registration and organization of its CSA, which runs from April to October.
Red Truck’s CSA options are Salad Lovers ($20 per week), Super Salad Lovers ($25 per week) or Veggie Box ($30 per week). Salad Shares are similar to Super Salad Shares with salad greens, two types of microgreens, and another veggie or two. The difference in these two options is that Salad Shares include a 6-ounce base bag of salad greens and Super Salad Shares include a 1-pound base bag. Veggie Shares include six or seven items from the farm. Arugula, snap peas, fresh onions and new potatoes are just some of the vegetables grown at Red Truck Farm. Customers who sign up before Feb. 28 get their first week free.
This season, Red Truck CSA members can skip up to five weeks for any reason, and customers are charged per week instead of paying a lump sum.
“We hope this will allow more people to consider a CSA subscription since we know that not everyone is able to contribute a full season of produce dollars all at once,” Baker said. “We are also increasing our diversity of crops and producing more of the fan favorites.”
Some CSAs, like Quackenbush Farm, offer pickup at the Vancouver Farmers Market. Then customers can round out their weekly shopping at other booths at the market, said Stephanie Haynes, partnerships and programs manager for the Vancouver Farmers Market.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients who visit the market can participate in the state Department of Health’s SNAP Market Match Program. SNAP users who swipe their electronic benefits transfer card at the market’s information booth to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs and seeds receive as much as $40 more to spend at the market.
SNAP matching money can be used to pay for a weekly CSA share. Because SNAP’s electronic benefits transfer cards can’t be used for online purchases, customers must first contact a farmer and sign up for a CSA. After registering for a share, customers make payments by swiping an electronic benefits transfer card at the farmers market’s information booth (which also gives them up to $40 in matching funds). Quackenbush Farm and Flat Tack Farm accept SNAP through payments processed at the Vancouver Farmers Market.
In addition, the market is offering a Market Box Subscription Program this season.
“For customers that are overwhelmed by all the vendors at the market, this can help them out,” Haynes said.
The box introduces subscribers to items they might not normally purchase at the market. Kiwi berries were in one of the market boxes last season, and people loved them. Customers who wanted more kiwi berries bought them directly from the farmer. As a result, the farmer sold more of these mini-kiwis from his stand.
The Market Box Subscription Program runs from June 19 to Oct. 30. Each week, market staff select locally grown fruits and vegetables from market vendors and pack them in boxes to be picked up curbside at the Historic Slocum House on Sundays.
Options include a summer subscription (June 19 through Aug. 21) and a fall subscription (Aug. 28 through Oct. 30), each $200 for a small share and $300 for a large share. The full-season subscription from June 19 through Oct. 30 is $380 for a small share and $570 for a large share.
This year, customers will also have the option to buy a share for every other week from June 19 through Oct. 23 or June 26 through Oct. 30. Small shares are $200, and large shares are $300.
Add-ons like eggs ($80 for 10 weeks, $150 for 20 weeks), fresh flower bouquets ($165 for 10 weeks, $320 for 20 weeks), and one surprise item like hot sauce or nut butter ($80 for 10 weeks, $150 for 20 weeks) are also available.