Utah’s Community Supported Agriculture connects neighbors with local farmers

February 6, 2018
Utah’s Community Supported Agriculture connects neighbors with local farmers

By Sergio Martínez-Beltrán • Standard-Examiner staff

Twelve years ago, Rachelle Rose moved from California to Utah. One of the first things she noticed: the lack of local, fresh produce in the grocery stores.

“We lived in the Bay Area and we could get local produce whenever we wanted it,” Rose said.

A couple of years later, Rose found her solution.

“There was a Tagge (fruits and vegetables) stand close to our house in Salt Lake and we heard they had boxes and we were like ‘sign us up!’” Rose said.

By boxes, she means a Community Supported Agriculture — a CSA — program. Now Rose and her husband are part of the more than 3,000 people in the CSA Utah group.

Jack Wilbur, the public information officer at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food  and CSA Utah board member, estimates there are about 35 farms involved in the state’s CSA program.

“A CSA is an agreement within a local farm and customers to have an ongoing relationship throughout the season,” Wilbur said.

CSAs can be found in communities around the country with a common goal of fostering a healthy relationship between local farmers and members of the community.

Paying subscribers join the CSA program to get a guaranteed share of local farmers’ crops, harvested every week for 10 to 20 weeks, depending on the farm.

Wilbur said most of the CSA farms are close enough for delivery or drop-off to subscribers.

Now a resident of Layton, Rachelle Rose receives a share of the season’s harvest from Tagge’s Famous Fruit and Veggie Farms.

“It’s very easy to get my box of farm produce,” Rose said. “I know where it is coming from.”

Thayne Tagge, the owner of the farm, said every year more people join his CSA program.

“We’ve owned our farm for 20 years and we’ve definitely felt and seen a loyalty toward local producers,” Tagge said. “People are starting to realize they are not going to have us around.”

Tagge said it’s more than a delivery service.

“Since day one we got some people,” Tagge said. “We get to know each other and share recipes at the farm.”

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Rose is among a growing population who value the fact that their food is grown nearby. Many also believe getting produce this way makes cooking and eating more fun.

“My son is connected to his food because he knows the farmer,” Rose said.

But buying from a CSA or a farmers market can also be challenging.

“If you are interested in joining a CSA you need to research the fact that you could get stuff you are not used to,” Wilbur said. “(You) need to be willing to try to cook with things (you) haven’t cooked with.”

And that could be the reason why the number of people who buy produce at the farmers market appears to be climbing.

“I think I see probably a larger trend of more people going to farmers markets, even more so than CSA,” Wilbur said.

Karen O’Driscoll of Kimball Junction met her local farmer when she sold him a tractor four years ago. She has been part of Tagge’s CSA program since.

“It’s wonderful,” O’Driscoll said. “I don’t grocery shop -- I kind of become overwhelmed with all the options.”

She said buying a share of Tagge’s harvest makes her meal preparation easier and fun.

“One thing I’ve never had before was a delicata squash,” O’Driscoll said. “I’m pretty sure I saw God after that.”

Contact education reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán at smartinezbeltran@standard.net or 801-625-4274. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/STANDARDEXSergio.