CSA farm is new option

Published 1:05 pm Saturday, May 29, 2010

Families in southern Minnesota now have another option for fresh, local produce in addition to farmers markets.

Amy Holmgren, of Ellendale, runs a community supported agriculture farm. CSA farms are not new in the United States but have been unavailable locally, and Holmgren’s is one of very few in southern Minnesota.

“We have great farmers markets, but this is just another type of farming model,” Holmgren said.

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Holmgren has 1 1/2 acres that she farms with about 85 different varieties of vegetables. She has all the typical crops including green beans, potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and peppers. She likes to try different varieties of the staples and this year will have 12 kinds of tomatoes, seven kind of watermelon and eight kind of squash. She also has produce some families haven’t eaten or heard of like kale and fennel, and she grows herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme and basil.

She grows most of her vegetables from heirloom seeds, which are seeds that have been saved from productive plants by seed companies. She buys these seeds from companies in Iowa and Missouri. They are different from produce that is sold a grocery stores, because that food is of a tougher strain of seed so that it can survive the transport from state to state. Holmgren’s produce doesn’t need to survive that kind of transport, so heirloom seeds are working for her and allow her to be more experimental.

She realizes that CSA farming doesn’t work for every family because of the large amounts of vegetables they receive each week.

“Some families are too busy to cook that much each week,” Holmgren said. “It’s a commitment.”

Families also share in the risks and rewards of the crops. If it’s a bad crop year they won’t receive as much as when it’s an abundant crop year. Last year there was an abundance of broccoli, so many families froze what they were given.

“Whatever’s harvested they have to use,” Holmgren said.

Some families freeze or can the vegetables to make them last all winter. Holmgren has families come to her farm to pick up their shares and also delivers them to Charlie and Annie Rohwer’s home in Waseca, which serves as the distribution point because she has quite a few families near Waseca who have shares.

“I liked the variety of vegetables that were delivered to us each week,” Charlie said. “It was nice to have whatever was in season and figure out what to do with it.”

A full share is $450, and a half share is $250. The share price is a one-time fee for 18 weeks of produce. Holmgren started her CSA farm last year and has enjoyed being able to provide locally-grown produce to families.

“I love what I do,” Holmgren said. “It’s a livelihood rather than a job.”

The produce she grows goes first to her CSA customers, and if there’s extra she sells it at Albert Lea’s and New Richland’s farmers markets. She has donated some of the produce in the past as well.

Holmgren also has the option for families to help pick some of the produce and has a volunteer day so families and their children can see where there produce is from and how the process works. She also sends out a weekly e-mail newsletter to let families know what to expect in their share and some recipes for the produce as well.

The 18-week season starts the week of June 14, so there’s still time to sign up with Holmgren. She still has shares to sell to families who are interested. She can be reached at (507) 402-9507 or by e-mail at prarieharvestfarm@gmail.com.

Correction: The e-mail address to reach Holmgren should read: prairieharvestfarm@gmail.com.