How to Claim Your Share of the Local Harvest
Imagine the flavor of local peaches, crisp greens, sun-warmed apricots, slicing tomatoes, eggs with creamy golden yolks, and meats raised humanely just a few miles from your house: hungry yet?
The Roaring Fork Valley’s farms are rich with the freshest and most delicious foods. But how can we get our hands on what they have to offer us? Enter the valley’s community-supported agriculture programs, also known as CSAs: the easiest, most cost-effective ways to procure locally-grown produce and other farm goods throughout most of the year. CSA members pay a set cost at the onset of the growing season, and in turn receive shares of a farm’s harvest as it becomes available. April is ripe for sign-up, so contact a local farm now to claim your share of good eating this year.
Peach Valley CSA Farm (New Castle/Silt)
Situated at the base of the majestic Grand Hogbacks, Peach Valley CSA Farm’s gardens, orchards, and fields are tended primarily by hand and kept alive by waters flowing down from the Flat Tops. The farm has supplied the valley vicinity with produce via its classic-model CSA since the 1990s, making it the longest-running program around.
“We do sort of a traditional approach,” says farm founder Ken Kuhns. “We take on about 100 member families at the beginning of the growing season.” Full and half shares are available, with separate options for vegetables and/or fruits in the summer. Add-ons include eggs, flowers, canning boxes, and even Thanksgiving turkeys. Delivery is available anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley for a small additional cost.
“When we started, no one really knew about CSAs here so it’s been fun to see where this has gone,” Kuhns recalls. “We grow as simply as we can, and encourage people to get their food as close to home as possible.”
Osage Gardens (New Castle)
If you’ve never popped into the Little Red Farm Store at Osage Gardens in New Castle, you’re missing out. Teeny-tiny and packed to the gills with seasonal vegetables and herbs grown on-site, the shop is a delight. It also happens to be ground zero for the farm’s unique in-store CSA program.
“We offer a free-choice program where members are able to shop weekly with their share dollars to purchase exactly what they want,” says the farm’s general manager Jared McDermott. “They also receive special discounts and promotions depending on the season.”
If members can’t make it into the shop for their CSA shopping spree on any given week, their dollars roll over to the next. Look for leafy greens, carrots, and tomatoes but also a number of specialty items such as sunflower sprouts, pea shoots, edible flowers, and large pounder bags of basil perfect for homemade pesto. Find Osage Gardens on Facebook for updates about their 25th anniversary this year.
Sustainable Settings (Carbondale)
Established nearly 20 years ago by husband-and-wife team Brook and Rose LeVan, Sustainable Settings has become a pillar of the sustainable agriculture community in the valley and beyond. The working ranch and learning center is a Demeter-certified biodynamic operation, offering an established 19-week CSA for about 40 members each year.
“We are what is called ‘beyond organic,’” says Rose LeVan. “Organic standards have loosened over the years, but our Demeter certification ensures we are doing things the right way.”
CSA members receive vegetables from the farm but can add eggs or meat including beef, lamb, pork, or chicken for an additional cost. Sustainable Settings also offers raw dairy through its herd share program, where members sign up for fractional ownership of a cow in exchange for weekly portions of milk. Email Rose for sign-up details.
Roaring Gardens (Carbondale)
Roaring Gardens farm manager Whitney Will wants to inspire her CSA members to get in the kitchen and experiment. “I came to farming through cooking rather than a background in agricultural science,” she recalls. “With our program we want to help people develop a kind of vegetable literacy, and to learn how to eat locally according to the season.”
A large insulated greenhouse helps the farm offer CSA goods 36 weeks of the year, in three 12-week sessions. Full or half shares are available for the summer and fall sessions, and members can fill out a preference survey to indicate which of the farm’s 250 varieties of herbs and vegetables they like most. Will, however, always encourages open-mindedness.
“This year we’ll include a packet with photos and information on how to cook the vegetables,” she says. “We’re always experimenting with growing, so we encourage members to try more unusual things like lemon cucumbers, sunchokes, or celeriac in addition to traditional items like tomatoes and salad greens.” Look for Roaring Gardens on Facebook and Instagram, or send an email for more information.
Spradley Farms (Missouri Heights)
Five years ago, family-owned Spradley Farms got its start by selling just five CSA shares to neighbors. This season, they’re offering 37.
“In 2017 the program runs June 16 through October 6,” says Allison Spayd, who owns the farm with her husband Mike. The pair met and fell in love with farming, and each other, while working for the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies several years ago. “We love what we do,” she adds.
CSA items include an assortment of vegetables plus supplemental fruits from the North Fork Valley when available. Members can add eggs in half-dozen increments, and can also purchase broiler chickens, honey, and portions of beef upon request. Incentives are available for neighbor referrals who want to split delivery costs. Register at the Spradley Farms website.
Erin’s Acres Farm (Carbondale)
The newest CSA on the block is available from Erin’s Acres. The program kicked off its inaugural session during the 2016 growing season, and owner Erin Cuseo is ready for expansion.
“Last year we had 25 shares available, but this year we have 40,” she says. Cuseo hopes her supply of traditional summer veggies combined with more adventurous offerings will pique her members’ curiosity. “I want to encourage them to try new things and not be afraid of different vegetables,” she adds, noting that she sends a weekly email to members with recipes.
Find Erin’s Acres on Facebook for farm news. Cuseo’s CSA features a 16-week program that runs mid-June through early October, with an optional five-week add-on available in the fall.
Wild Mountain Seeds (Carbondale)
This ambitious seed breeding and food production systems research farm operates at Sunfire Ranch in the Crystal River Valley. It also supplies a lucky handful of locals with heirloom vegetables via its 25-member CSA.
“We try to keep our program small to strive for a personal relationship with our members,” says Casey Piscura, who runs the farm with partner Kirsten Keenan. “We’re already pretty full this year, but we have a few spots left. Our goal is to foster a connection between farmer and consumer.”
Wild Mountain Seeds is known for its diverse offerings, including over 100 heirloom tomato varieties, though some are experimental and unavailable to the public. Families interested in snagging one of the remaining shares should call the farm first to discuss options.