The spring thaw enlivens not only the soil but thoughts of planting and growing things in it. It’s also a time to ramp up, register for or donate to a host of local food and produce programs, through which regional farmers bring fresh food and produce to the tables of local consumers or the less fortunate, who would otherwise go without.
Below is a rundown of some events, programs and other information about how to make those local fresh-food connections.
Seward Co-op CSA Fair and grand opening celebration
On Saturday, April 25 — rain or shine — the Seward Co-op will hold its annual Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) Fair, 11 a.m.–3 p.m., under a tent in the parking lot outside the store at 2823 E. Franklin Ave.
Community-supported agriculture is a practice that not only puts fresh local produce on people’s tables but helps sustain the area farmers that grow it. Customers buy a share of the season’s harvest, an investment that helps cover the farmer’s operating expenses for the season. In return, shareholders receive fresh local products like fruit, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, honey or meat; packages vary depending on the producer and what is in season.
A typical CSA share costs an average of $700, according to the co-op, and most shares include servings for a family of four each week throughout the growing season, typically June through September or October.
The phenomenon is increasingly popular; according to the co-op, the number of CSAs in the country has grown from 50 in 1990 to more than 1,000 today.
More than 20 farms and organizations are expected to attend the April 25 event. Shoppers can talk to farmers, learn more about the various CSAs or even buy a share.
The next day, in coordination with the CSA Fair, the co-op will officially celebrate its grand opening, noon–5 p.m., also in the parking lot. The festivities include music by the Brass Messengers, Chastity Brown, the Godevils, Beau Kinstler and Andrea Stern; creative kids’ activities led by Franklin Avenue business ArtiCulture; food samples and cooking demonstrations; product information from local producers; an exhibit of the history of co-ops; and giveaways and drawings to receive garden rain barrels at a significantly reduced price, as well as specials and events at other Seward-area businesses.
Land Stewardship Project
An even more comprehensive resource for information on CSAs is the Land Stewardship Project’s Twin Cities Region CSA Farm Directory, a free guide available online at www.landstewardshipproject.org/csa.html or in print at the Land Stewardship Project’s office at 821 E. 35th St., Suite 200. The nonprofit’s website provides information on CSAs, things to consider in selecting one, detailed descriptions of area farms that offer them, and a long list of broader topics and resources related to local and sustainable foods, including a “local foods dinner planning guide” and a map of area CSA dropoff spots (see sidebar on page 8).
For more information, call 612-722-6377.
Another local program aims to bring fresh produce even closer to area residents — by planting it in their yards.
Backyard Harvest, a program of the Permaculture Research Institute — Cold Climate, pairs experienced farmers with urban homeowners, renters and neighborhoods to create gardens in their backyards, maintain the gardens and harvest the produce each week for the families. Moreover, the program provides not only fresh, chemical-free produce, it offers living wages and job training, gardening education and a demonstration of the economic viability of small-scale neighborhood food production, according to information from the Permaculture Research Institute.
Launched just this year, Backyard Harvest held a Feb. 9 fund-raiser at Merlins Rest that brought the program up to 32 percent of its $20,000 funding goal for 2009. For more information about the program or to ask about pricing and options, visit www.pricoldclimate.org, call 651-451-1716 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harvest for the Hungry
Another new project, through the Emergency Foodshelf Network (EFN), aims to provide fresh, locally grown produce to households facing hunger while supporting small local farms in a way similar to the CSA model.
Harvest for the Hungry, now in its second year, puts 100 percent of donations toward the purchase of fresh produce from a half-dozen participating farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The food is distributed to EFN’s network of food shelves and on-site meal programs.
To donate to Harvest for the Hungry or to learn more about EFN’s other programs, visit www.emergencyfoodshelf.org.
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