In an age when most food comes individually wrapped or pre-cooked, eating fresh produce right off the vine or out of the dirt is a rarity enjoyed by few.
Unlike large commercial farms that produce as much food as possible to make maximum profit, Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) farms bring back that small, homegrown feel.
Sustainable living practices emphasize caring for the land, ensuring that the resources will last, and taking only as much as you need.
CSA farms began developing in Japan and Europe in the ’60s. In the mid-’80s, the idea of community farms crossed the ocean to the U.S.
Members of CSA farms purchase a share at the beginning of the season to get an allotment of weekly harvests of vegetables, fruits and flowers.
In this system, members and farmers share the risks associated with agriculture, but both reap the benefits as well. The members get fresh picked, organically grown produce. Farmers get cash up front to cover growing season costs and guaranteed customers.
CSU has its own CSA farm. CSU Specialty Crops Program interns run the CSU CSA on 8 acres of the CSU Horticulture Research Center (HRC). The HRC is an 80-acre research center for the CSU Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department.
“As for reasons to be a member, the best one is the food is locally grown,” said Deb Gunther, a research associate for the Specialy Crops Program at CSU. “Most times members get it within one day of harvest. It’s very fresh.”
In addition to growing and selling crops, the farm is also used in researching techniques of fertilizing, managing pests and disease and the development of enterprise budgets for small farmers.
The Happy Heart Farm, 2820 W. Elizabeth St., was the first CSA farm in Fort Collins. This season, the 3-acre farm has a full membership of 120 people.
“For some people it’s a whole new experience,” owner Bailey Stenson said. “It’s not like we grow kooky vegetables, but it is just a variety that some people have not experienced.”
The farm also hosts school groups and provides an internship program Interns learn all aspects of running the farm, from growing and harvesting the produce, to publishing the monthly newsletter to preparing the food that they grow.
Stenson said the Happy Heart Farm would like to expand their educational programs.
“Our hope in the future is to have more people come to learn on our farm,” Stenson said. “Not only would they learn but we would get more revenue. We would like to enlarge that aspect more.”
Stenson encourages people to volunteer and wants to get more people interested in this kind of agriculture.
Even though the CSU CSA and Happy Heart Farm are at maximum member capacity this season, Cresset Community Farm, 503 S. County Road, still has shares available.
Local CSA Farms
Happy Heart Farm (full membership)
2820 W. Elizabeth St.
Cresset Community Farm (needs more members this season)
503 S. County Road
Loveland, CO, 80537
CSU CSA (full membership)
For more information:
Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association
Center for CSA Resources