Eating fresh with Grant Family Farms
Fort Collins, Colo.
Lewis Grant and his son Andy started growing vegetables on their farm in the fooathills near Wellington, Colo., in the 1960s. In 1974 Andy took a revolutionary step to commit to organic farming. In 1986 their farm was the first to be certified organic by the State of Colorado. Now they have a farm within their farm where they grow vegetables and flowers for their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
A CSA is an innovative and resourceful strategy to create a straight-forward partnership that brings together community members, farmers and agricultural land into a relationship of support. The CSA system provides a direct link and responsible relationship between people and the food they eat, the land upon which it is grown and those who grow it. CSA members make a pre-season payment to purchase a share of the summer harvest, letting them enjoy a box of locally grown fresh vegetables that will feed two to four adults on a weekly basis starting the second full week in June, through the 20 week harvest cycle, without having to grow it themselves. This averages out to be 10 to 20 pounds of diverse and quality produce. Separate shares are available for 10 weekly bouquets of fresh flowers from mid-summer through early autumn. Winter shares consist of four boxes of durable vegetables such as squash, onions, leeks, kale, root crops, and several types of potatoes, each week of November. The pre-payment provides the farm with a secure market for all their growing efforts.
Clark Sloan, a beekeeper from Brighton, will provide honey for members to purchase. Shares are available on their website, http://www.grantfarms.com or by calling the farm at (970) 568-7654. A full share is $580, just $29 per week; a supported share can be purchased and given to an individual or the Food Bank or Crossroads Safe House. A working share can be obtained for $490 with a commitment of 18 hours to weed, harvest and prep the boxes. Members receive a newsletter and invitations to informal farm tours and summer and fall celebratory events to generate a sense of community. It will also give information explaining what the more unfamiliar vegetables are.
The employees who make this all possible are enthusiastic about CSA and work well together. Marty is the office wizard and her dog Lucy, the office mascot, keeps her company. Mary Miller is passionate about CSA and being able to participate in a local food system.
“I’ve always had dirt under my fingernails,” she said. “Farms are so important. CSA helps the local economy by keeping the money here. I am so proud of our crops; we grow a whole spectrum of vegetables ” the boxes will be beautiful and abundant.
We don’t want anyone to feel pressured because they don’t like a particular vegetable, so at each of the pick up sites there will be a trade box where vegetables can be swapped.”
Liz Maines-Ruhl is their farmer, who has worked for other CSAs and truly loves being a gypsy farmer because she gets to learn new crops and methods.
“The people I get to meet are wonderful,” she said. Liz’s love for the plants she has grown from seed shows as she sprays water over them and tells about gathering seeds for red snapdragons. It is amazing to see the thousands of seedlings in the greenhouses.
Felipe Munoz has worked for the Grants more than 20 years as crew boss.
“He is my guardian angel and right -hand man. He shares his knowledge and experience with me, to make it all work this spring. When seedlings need to be transplanted he sends some of his field staff from the big farm. He even re-skinned both greenhouses with plastic covering this spring,” said Liz.
Josh Palmer worked with a CSA while in college in Arizona where he got a degree in Environmental Studies. He has enjoyed working with Andy Grant in developing the program and helping to preserve farmland. He and Mary work together on marketing which gives him the opportunity to interact with people, something he really enjoys. Mary says she couldn’t possibly do the marketing without Josh; he’s her right hand man. Josh is fixing up an old trailer to be used as the pick up place for shares at the farm.
Stacy works part-time for the CSA, helping Liz with the 10,000 tomatoes and peppers and other seedlings that are growing in the greenhouses. They have a “bazillion” varieties of tomatoes, mild to firry peppers, eggplants, melons, squash, nearly every vegetable imaginable. The heirloom tomatoes require a longer growing time than is available here, so they need help with the heat of the greenhouses to accelerate their production.
Pick up sites are selected to accommodate members. Days and times are: at the farm on Saturdays 9 to noon, Old Town by Eco Thrift in Fort Collins Saturdays 9 to noon, downtown Denver at Jessup and Colorado on Thursdays 12 to 4, Fort Collins Brewery on Thursdays 4 to 7, and Cheyenne on Saturday mornings. Their produce will also be marketed at Farmers Markets in Fort Collins in Old Town, Cherry Creek in Denver on Saturdays and in Cheyenne on Tuesdays.
Mary is very excited to be a part of the nutrition program that Sara Morales is developing at Poudre Valley Hospital at 1024 S. Lemay Avenue in Fort Collins. She wants to walk the talk by offering fresh organics at a P.V.H. garden market on Thursdays.
Summer is here and the plants are growing quickly. If you’d like to participate in CSA to begin enjoying delicious fresh produce, call Grant’s Farm soon.
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The Agriculture Department has established a new data report, the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement Seasonal Perishable Products Weekly Update, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service announced on Jan. 11.