By Amanda Laigle, Community Engagement Team Intern
I went on assignment with Chris Iberle, the Food Hub Manager here at Seattle Tilth. I was interested in documenting a day in the life of our hard working Seattle Tilth Produce team, which meant meeting up with Chris at 8 a.m. (coffee in hand). First stop: Seattle Tilth Farm Works farm in Auburn. Our drive, about an hour from Seattle, gave us the opportunity to discuss all things community supported agriculture (CSA) before we hit the ground running.
What is community supported agriculture? Members sign up in advance and pay up front to fund early season costs — growing, planning and education. In return, they receive a “share” in the farm’s harvest throughout the season. Many traditional CSA programs support a single family farm or farmer. Seattle Tilth’s CSA program is a bit different. Our members directly support a multitude of new, immigrant and limited resource farmers – 21 this year – participating in Seattle Tilth Farm Works “farm incubator” training program. In addition to fresh veggies, our CSA members have the option to add-on products like farm fresh eggs, pastured heritage pork and Thanksgiving turkeys raised using organic practices by our farmers, and also local lentil and garbanzo beans, honey and even raw fermented sauerkraut from our like-minded partner producers.
My morning at Seattle Tilth Farm Works was a busy, and hot one. I spent hours seeing what it takes to get fresh, organic produce from farm to consumer. The Seattle Tilth Produce team carefully washed, weighed, bunched, bagged, sorted and packed up enough beautiful produce to fill 70 boxes for that day’s deliveries. I took short breaks to snap photos of the chickens, greenhouses, growing fields and the happy hogs being raised by Karla of Feliz Farm (Seattle Tilth Farm Works participant).
Then we swiftly loaded up the new refrigerated van, running on local biodiesel, and jetted off to our seven drop-off locations where members would be picking up boxes of farm fresh veggies that afternoon. We finally made it back to Seattle Tilth’s Wallingford office around 3 p.m. just in time to unload our bounty for the last stop – greeted by eagerly waiting CSA members.
For Seattle Tilth, the introduction of the CSA program two years ago meant stepping into some new and uncharted territory. Seattle Tilth has long established itself as a “go-to” educational resource for gardening enthusiasts in the Pacific Northwest, but marketing and selling products directly to consumers is a whole new ball game. It was a natural transition though. Offering a CSA program to the local community fits well with Seattle Tilth’s mission and was a needed next step for farmers in Seattle Tilth Farm Works. While many farmers were becoming adept at organically growing crops, marketing and distribution was their big concern. In 2013, the CSA’s inaugural year, 52 CSA members stepped forward. That number doubled this year to 100 members – and there’s an additional 20 on the waiting list! Big changes are on the horizon to better serve members and farmers — stay tuned for updates about next year’s CSA this winter.
My day at Seattle Tilth Farm Works was a welcome throwback to my own childhood. I grew up on a small family hobby farm in Connecticut. We maintained an extensive vegetable garden and raised our own chickens and happy hogs. As an adult it was easy for me to go through my own natural transition – growing my own herbs and vegetables, frequenting my local farmers market, becoming a CSA member and being actively involved with Seattle Tilth. My sister and I peddling farm-fresh eggs to our childhood neighbors hardly compares to the full-scale operation that is the Seattle Tilth CSA program, but I believe the basic principles are the same. It’s about supporting our local economy by buying from local producers. It’s about investing in small family farmers so they can do what they love. And it’s about knowing and appreciating where good food comes from.
Fall CSA Sign Ups!
The CSA season is currently winding down – but it’s not over yet! There are still ways to get in on the action. You can sign up now for fall vegetable shares, Thanksgiving turkeys and heritage pastured pork. Support a new farmer! You can also support Seattle Tilth Produce at a number of local farm stands and markets across Seattle and King County. Sign-ups for the 2015 CSA will start in February – mark your calendars!