Sunday, March 25, 2012

Local Farmer Open House: What I Learned

Last Saturday, I attended the Local Farmer Open House at Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center. As I mentioned in my post from March 11, I'm one of three bloggers writing about my experience in choosing a community supported agriculture (CSA) share and also about what the open house had to offer.

If you didn't make it to the event, I definitely recommend it for next year. It's a great way to connect with farmers to learn about their offerings, including CSA programs for fresh produce, flower CSAs, online farm stores and workshops (more on all that later). It's also a great way to check out the Urban Ecology Center if you've never been.

In total, there were 27 farms, companies, cooperatives, etc. featured at the event. They were spread all throughout the building, each displaying lots of information about their offerings. Each stand has a few people available to answer questions and, if you desired, to sign you up for a CSA share.

Here is a smattering of what I learned at the event:
  • The definition of a CSA. Just to recap, in a CSA program, the consumer buys produce directly from a farmer and receives fresh, seasonal produce on a regular basis throughout the growing or harvesting season. The consumer signs an agreement to purchase a season's worth of produce shares. Each week (or every other week) he or she will receive a box of produce that's appropriate to the growing season. CSAs encourage healthy eating and help support local farmers -- a win-win!
  • There are so many options for a CSA! You can get weekly shares that are either a full share or a half share, every-other-week shares or just a fall/winter share if you'd like. There are also many payment options available, including payment plans and worker shares.  
  • Be sure to ask a lot of questions when selecting a CSA program. The informational sheet all attendees received offered some great questions you should ask a CSA farmer. These include:
    • Where and when are your pick-up sites? Oone farmer mentioned this was THE most important question and that an easy pick-up location was one of the most important things to consider when selecting a CSA share.
    • What is the length of the season?
    • Describe the size and cost of your share.
    • What, if anything, is offered besides vegetables? Some farms offer meat, eggs or bulk-buying options, such as tomatoes at the height of tomato season,
    • What are your production and growing practices?
  • Some farms have online farm stores. This was a really cool thing to learn. Some farms offer online stores in which you, even if you don't sign up for a CSA share, can go online and buy whatever is fresh that week at the farm, which can include meat and eggs, and pick up the order at locations throughout Milwaukee. 
  • There is such a thing as a flower share. Instead of getting fresh veggies and fruit each week, you can get fresh-cut stems. What a great idea! One farm offered a 20-week program in which members receive 12-15 stems (cut that morning) of whatever is in season at the time.

No comments:

Post a Comment