Green Earth Growers
Green Earth Growers produce share
A typical produce share from Green Earth Growers, a CSA based out of Prior Lake, Minnesota.
This Friday, Feb. 24 is Community Supported Agriculture Day—a kickoff to the growing season. It’s also a celebration of CSAs around the country, where farmers sell yearly shares of produce to members. The trend is saturating the cities, and is being embraced by more families looking to infuse local, seasonal produce in their meals. We spoke with four prominent Twin Cities-area CSA farmers about what makes their operation unique.
Opened in 2003, Tangletown Gardens is a mecca for South Minneapolis gardeners. Owners Scott Endres and Dean Engelmann met as horticulture students, and have been farming together ever since. They originally started with just the garden shop, but have grown exponentially since those first few years. They now have the farm near Plato, Minn., and also run the renowned Wise Acre Eatery in South Minneapolis, which is completely stocked by the farm. They started growing and selling CSA shares in 2010 to get spring customers coming back for summer, too. Their current membership numbers hover just around 600.
What makes these guys unique is just how much they do. “We have a full working farm. Animals, plants, everything,” Engelmann says. “The proteins for the restaurant coupled with the plant growth systems mimics mother nature in a way. They’re symbiotic, making everything better. Having both sides of that system makes for a really unique growing system.”
They also have a wider variety of share options. Full shares are great for families, running $675 for the summer, and half shares are $475. They also have a salad share for beautiful, leafy lunches, with a small amount of vegetables included for garnish, running $180 for the season.
Engelmann says it’s worth it to find a farm that suits your needs. “It’s a great value, you get delicious, very fresh food; it’s incomparable,” he said. “But to support that type of relationship, a local food system, will not only benefit you and your family, but the community as a whole.”
Bootstrap Urban Farm is more than just a garden to Eve Marie Glidden and Jon Middleton; it’s a call to social action.
The partners started Bootstrap in 2012 to give friends, family, and neighbors access to healthy food. Middleton had worked at farms across the country, where she discovered a passion for environmental-social justice. When she returned to Minnesota, she and Glidden found that the best way to effect change was to start a garden.
“We started studying the food systems currently in place and realized that access to real, good food is super important,” Glidden said. “Having a diversified diet is super important for children. Food that’s harvested the same day tastes better, and is better, than anything on the shelf.”
Recognizing that not all families can break the bank for fresh kale, Bootstrap offers a sliding scale option for produce shares. Families with incomes under $30,000 pay $250 for a produce box every other week, and families making over $60,000 pay $500.
“It’s just so important to achieve food access,” Eve said. “When we started, I knew I couldn’t afford a $700 share, and we wanted to open this up to people of all incomes. It’s usually around 50-50 among higher and lower incomes.”
Owners Jenny Hotz and Jolea Gress started from a greenhouse, doing strictly farmers markets. Now as certified sustainable, organic, and non-GMO CSA farmers, they appeal to so many customers, they’re almost at capacity for shares.
Hotz and Gress say joining a CSA is a great opportunity to foster meaningful connections with children over the very human activity of meal creation.
“Joining a CSA is a great opportunity to work with kids in the kitchen, teaching them how to cook,” Hotz says. “Spending time in the kitchen, planning means, learning how to prepare all these different kinds of foods, and just the value and end product of sitting down for a family meal. Kids really do love that,” she says.
“What I think is great about us too is the variety of produce we have for families,” she says. “Stuff that doesn’t typically come in a CSA box: heirloom vegetables, melons, types of peppers, unique things like that.” This presents an awesome learning experience for parents and children.
For a large family, a 16-week full share will run you $510. Smaller families will get a smaller box every week for $330. New this year is the farm’s flower share, a weekly, locally grown bouquet of blooms for $140.
Featherstone Farm is a pioneer in the Minnesota CSA game. For 21 years, farmer Jack Hedin and crew have been bringing organic produce to Minnesota families.
“Joining one is great because you can believe in the practices,” says Patty Zanski, CSA coordinator. “It does require a lot of dedication from the consumer. You don’t always know what’s coming or how to use it, but we give a lot of info about the crops and how to use them.”
Featherstone offers a plethora of resources to members who aren’t sure how to use what’s in the box. “We like to make it a guided adventure,” Zanski says.
Featherstone also is committed to high organic standards, and places equal value on sustainability, outfitting their production facilities with solar panels.
Two share sizes, a full and half, are available for $715 and $498, respectively. Shares are giant, Zanski said, and there are 25 pick-up locations in the Twin Cities.