Walk outside in the delicate spring air along a moss-green path to a beautiful kitchen garden, one that yields a bountiful harvest for family and friends. Gather fragrant herbs, crisp sweet carrots, pert breakfast radishes, golden beets and pretty green eggs.
Ahh, spring. Before long, there will be a scrumptious feast on the table, served within hours of harvest.
Around here this pastoral paradise is easy to achieve without ever lifting a shovel, unless you simply can?t resist. When you subscribe to a CSA program, a weekly bounty of freshly harvested herbs, vegetables, fruits and more arrives on your doorstep, or nearby. CSA stands for Community Supported, or Shared, Agriculture.
Three farms in Wine Country offer CSA programs, providing an ideal opportunity to live the philosophy of True Food, of eating close to home and knowing where your food comes from and who grows it. A CSA program is a personal, intimate expression of sustainable farming and the best way to engage with the rhythms of the seasons if you don?t have your own farm. And the farms encourage members to get involved ? a perfect way to respond to the siren song of the shovel.
The concept of CSAs originated in Japan, migrated to Germany and then spread throughout the United States from east to west. Nearly all programs operate seasonally, but Wine Country is blessed with many mild microclimates yielding a year-round harvest most years.
In its purest form, a CSA farmer calculates the cost of running the farm for a year, divides the figure by the number of people the farm can sustain and charges members that amount. Subscribers pay for the year before a single radish seed is in the ground. Then, as the seasons unfold, members share equally in the harvest, picking up a weekly box or bag of produce at the farm or at convenient drop-off locations. Home delivery costs more. If bad weather leads to crop failure, members share that, too. This structure of shared risk allows a farm to thrive in both good and bad years and to survive competition from large corporate endeavors.
Wine Country CSA programs work a bit differently, without the shared risk. Subscriptions are based on retail value of the produce, not on operating costs.
Tierra Vegetables, based in north Santa Rosa, operates year-round, with weekly boxes from mid-spring until late fall and monthly boxes in the winter and early spring. Fruit, including Tierra Vegetable?s famous strawberries, is included in the standard subscription.
Laguna Farm in Sebastopol, with about 400 members, is Wine Country?s biggest CSA program. It operates year-round, supplementing its own harvest with produce from other farms and from the wholesale market in San Francisco when its own fields, which border the Laguna de Santa Rosa, are too wet to plant. Think of it as a combination CSA program and personal shopping service.
Canvas Ranch, nestled in the gently undulating hills of Two Rock west of Petaluma, offers boxes every other week in the winter and early spring and weekly from June through Thanksgiving. The farm supplements its own harvest with additional fruit from local organic farms and this spring has formed a partnership with Benson Ranch of Sebastopol, which took over deliveries on March 1.