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Community supported agriculture has put down roots in the Klamath Basin
by SARA HOTTMAN, Herald and News 6/30/11
H&N photo by Sara Hottman Christina Garcia and Hilary Ross load boxes of produce for Staunton Family Farm’s community supported agriculture, commonly known as CSA, members.
Courtney Staunton’s dad, Marshall, successfully farms 6,000 acres in Tulelake.
Still, she had no intention of following in his footsteps.
But eight years ago she started an organic garden, then five years later got involved in community supported agriculture. More commonly known by its acronym, CSA, it’s a system in which small farmers sell directly to consumers.
“I liked getting people’s reactions, finding recipes to share with them, getting feedback directly from the consumer,” Staunton said. “With big agriculture there’s no reaction. It’s just money and big companies telling you, ‘We need this now.’ ”
Today is the first day Staunton Family Farms will have boxes of produce — lettuce, spinach, radishes, herbs and surprise leeks that survived the winter — available for its 62 CSA members, who for 16 weeks will have access to fresh herbs, fruits, vegetables and, this year, even eggs.
Fresh, seasonal, quality local produce is a deal for the consumer, and a solid business model for local small farmers, said Jordan Rainwater, with the OSU Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center, who used to run the Belweather Farms CSA.
Mutual benefit
“It’s a mutual benefit,” she said. “It’s economic security for the farmer because they line up customers at the beginning of the season. No matter how bountiful the harvest is, a sale is assured.
“It’s beneficial for the consumer because they have a face on who’s growing their food … and they’re receiving some of the freshest produce available.”
And, she added, as a small farmer, “Getting to know customers personally was invaluable. It’s part of the fun of the CSA.”
Produce loses quality the more miles it travels so CSA goods are usually better quality than grocery store produce. Buying from a CSA also keeps grocery money local, Rainwater said.
Many CSA farmers also sell at the Klamath Falls Farmers Market; however success there is far from assured for growers.
But depending on a small, local farmer has its drawbacks for consumers.
Staunton is delivering her first boxes a week late, following cold, wet spring weather. She also is skeptical of her corn crop, which has been picked over by pheasants.
“Especially in this climate, there has to be some flexibility on the consumer’s part,” Rainwater said. “They’re buying into the risk as well as the bounty.”
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