Community supported agriculture gains popularity in River Falls area
With people caring more about where their food comes from and about helping local farmers, community supported agriculture (CSA) is gaining momentum in the River Falls area.
The first CSA farm in Wisconsin started near Milwaukee in 1988. The farms operate by offering shares to a limited number of customers, who agree to pay a fee in exchange for weekly delivery of a box of fresh produce.
“This is our sixth year operating as a CSA farm,” said Adam Greeson of Sweet Top Farm in Deer Park, Wisconsin. Greeson moved to Deer Park after renting farm land in River Falls for three years.
CSA farms like Sweet Top have been slowly increasing the number of people who buy a share.
“We have 65 full shares that people buy and over 100 half shares that will be delivered each week,” said Greeson.
The Midwest, and the Madison area in particular, have proven to be fertile ground for CSA farms and communities, according to the Fairshare CSA Coalition. For over 20 years, the Fairshare Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (formerly the Madison Area CSA Coalition) has made it easier to link people who are concerned about the food they consume to local farmers in their communities who grow quality vegetables and other produce in Wisconsin.
Typically, members of the CSA farm purchase a share in advance. Cost of a full share ranges from $425-600 for the season. A half share, which is delivered every other week, costs about $250-330.
When customers buy a share, they are committing to the farm for the season and helping cover the initial annual costs of the farm operation. In return, members receive boxes of the farm’s produce or products throughout the growing season. People also know more about local food production and where their food comes from.
The very first CSA farms started during the early 1960s in Germany, Switzerland and Japan.
According to Fairshare, CSA grew out of concern for urbanization and food safety. Groups of consumers and farmers in Europe formed cooperative partnerships to support farms by paying the full costs of ecologically sound, socially equitable agriculture.
Japan leads the world in CSA farms.
In 1965, mothers in Japan concerned about the rise of imported food and the loss of arable land started the first CSA projects, called Teikei. The largest cooperative network in Japan is called the Seikatsu Club and is made up of 600 farms that supply food to more than 22 million people, according to Fairshare.
Locally, the owners of Sylvan Hills Farm in Menomonie expect to start delivery to a drop site at the Whole Earth Grocery Co-op at 126 S. Main St. in River Falls.
Each year, Sylvan Hills Farm owners Larry Diehlmann and Jackie Kujak deliver to the Twin Cities, Hudson, River Falls and Menomonie, located less than an hour from customers. Sylvan Hills Farm produces over 90 varieties of organic produce.
A local farmers market is another place to get fresh, locally grown vegetables.
“We have been selling vegetables at the River Falls Farmers Market since it started,” said Bill Kelly of Cedar Hill Farm and Greenhouse in River Falls.
Kelly is dedicated to his customers and is at the market every week with traditional items and some new or unusual produce like white corn.
The River Falls Farmers Market operates 3-6 p.m. on Tuesdays and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays next to Dick’s Fresh Market, 1121 S. Main St.
For more information about CSA farms or to sign up for a share online, contact Cedar Hill Farm and Greenhouse through its website at cedarhillgreenhouse.net, Sweet Top Farm at sweettopfarm.com or Sylvan Hills Farm at sylvanhillsfarm.com.