CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a farm/eater relationship that’s been growing in this country for the past three decades. 2013 will be the fifth year for our small farm but I’ve been growing on CSA farms around the country and here in Portland for more than 15 years now. I wanted to try my own variation on the theme, scaling things down a bit.
Here at Slow Hand Farm I’ve sized our shares so that individuals can afford them, and use a full share in a reasonable amount of time. The shares are filled with varieties that I find special in one way or another, the vegetables are grown using hand scale methods, and I can always tell you exactly how something was grown, and how to best eat it!
2013 brings exciting changes to the farm. For the first four seasons we were growing on Sauvie Island, but we're in the process of moving operations entirely down to Sherwood, less than 15 miles from the center of Portland. This is allowing the farm to expand, and to increase our educational and community aspects.
Above are some photos of 2011 shares taken from the blog. Every season is different, every year is different, and those differences will be reflected in the 2013 shares. You can get an idea of the range of shares by looking back through the blog for the past few years. I try to post a photo of the share along with a description and suggestions for use every week.
Basic Share Principles
•I've designed our shares around individuals (if you’re buying for more than one eater, consider buying more than one share). Large vegetables, like giant cabbages and pumpkins, are hard for individuals to eat in a week so we avoid growing them and concentrate on things that are more serving sized. They’re also hard to grow in a small space.
•We grow things that can be harvested and distributed the same day. Crops that are normally cured, or stored and distributed later, we harvest and distribute immediately. This eliminates the need for redundant refrigeration and storage space on the farm when it already exists in our members kitchens. In many cases this also keeps the product fresher and more flavorful, and it reduces our ecological footprint significantly. In some cases it requires the members to treat the product slightly differently than they may be used to but we’ll always pass on any information you need.
•We try to find unique and special varieties. Many of these varieties are more flavorful and nutritious than standard commercial varieties. Some have special stories and histories, are bred locally, or are crops we just really like to eat ourselves. A few were bred right here in Oregon by our friends at Wild Garden Seed.
•We primarily use hand scale methods. Because hand labor is more expensive than mechanical systems based on fossil fuel by a factor of 100 we concentrate on crops that are difficult to mechanize, and that take less space in the ground, like salad greens. When we do grow crops that are typically highly mechanized, like potatoes, we choose varieties that are uncommon and we give out small quantities. In 2013 we will be using diesel tractors to prepare the fields, but most all of the rest of the work will be done with hand tools.
Details of the Different Seasons
I've posted links to the projections for each of the seasons over on the How to Sign Up page. The projections are what I use to make my planting plan, but the planting plan never goes quite as planned when it gets right down to it. Even when the planting plan is followed, the harvests are frequently a little different than planned, based on what looks best on the actual harvest day.