It’s not every day that I get to be up close and personal with the chickens whose eggs I’ll be bringing home to eat. But that’s exactly the type of farm-to-table experience I’ve been submerged in since joining the CSA program at Wild Hare Organic Farm.
A CSA — or community supported agriculture — is a way for people to get fresh, natural food, while simultaneously supporting local farmers. As the folks behind Wild Hare put it — the CSA is the backbone of their entire farm.
“Having the money to work with upfront frees us to take on a different style of growing and management,” Mark Green said. He and his wife, Katie, took over the farm (formerly known as Terry’s Berry’s) a couple of years ago. “We really try to reward that support. If we’re having a great year on the farm, the CSA members see that. We all share in the bounty.”
Mark and Katie’s story is unique. Neither grew up as farmers. They all but fell into it. Katie started to work for a specialty grower on the East End of Long Island while Mark was completing coursework for his Ph.D. in Philosophy. What Katie learned from her time on the New York farm was that she and Mark could “eat like one-percenters without being a one-percenter.”
“We pretty much figured we had to learn how to [farm] on our own if we wanted to continue eating that way,” Katie said.
And so their journey into farming began. And as interesting as their backstory might be, it dawned on me, as they shared their story, that getting to know the people who grow my food is an opportunity few people have.
And that’s why I joined a CSA.
What can you expect from joining a CSA?
First, let’s talk about some of the bumps you might encounter along the way, namely, accepting the struggles of being part of a CSA during late fall and early winter.
“Off-seasons are for the real troopers,” Mark admitted. “That’s no joke.”
That’s because, unlike supermarkets, which have access to shipments from around the world, local farmers only have the ground in which they grow from. During the winter, options are limited. We’re talking lots of onions, various types of squashes, potatoes, radishes, and other root vegetables. Leafy greens aren’t MIA, but they tend to be more scarce.
Other things you should consider before joining a CSA include:
- You have to be creative. The contents of your share might vary from week to week, so, in essence, you occasionally have to put on your Iron Chef hat to figure out what you’re going to do with some of that food.
- You have to be ready to cook. If you like to eat out a lot or prefer to make Mac ‘n’ Cheese as your “big meal,” then you’ll find that some of your share might go to waste.
- If the farm suffers, you will too. For example, what if one season your farm gets infested with insects that bite holes in Swiss chard leaves? Or maybe you want more cucumbers during a specific week. Unless you also shop at a market, you’re limited to your farm’s offering.
But come spring and summer, that’s when the real fun begins.
“A good way to get started in a CSA is in-season,” Mark said. “Many people want to start in January, because of resolutions or something, but it’s hard. You can do it, but only if you’re serious about it.”
So what are the benefits of joining a CSA?
- You’re supporting a local farm, without any middleman involved.
- You experience a near farm-to-table service in real time.
- It’s actually not very expensive at all. A family of two to three people could possibly survive on Wild Hare’s “small” portion, which if purchased as a full year, costs $893.
- It’s community-building. You get to know your growers and like-minded CSA members, and people are always happy to chat and share recipe ideas (not to mention Wild Hare sends out a weekly newsletter with recipe ideas for that week’s share).
- You’ll get some fun surprises along the way, including foods you might never have ever heard of.
In fact, Mark and Katie see the CSA as a way for them to flex their creative farming.
“We have to get really creative and throw as much diversity into our limited growing season,” Mark said. “We reach way out there just so our members don’t get bored, so in the end, our members get exposed to new things.”
Want more information on Wild Hare and their CSA?
Wild Hare offers a variety of CSA options, including trial periods. You can sign up for a season, or full year. You can also add other options to your CSA, such as eggs, salad mix, and artisan bread.
More information about the CSA can be found here.
Wild Hare also sells food at various farmers markets, including:
- At their farm (4520 River Road, Tacoma), open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., year-round
- Tacoma Farmers Market – 6th Avenue, open Tuesdays 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (May – September)
- Tacoma Farmers Market – Broadway, open Thursdays 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. (May – October)
- Puyallup Farmers Market, open Saturdays (Mid-April – Mid-October)
- U-District Farmers Market – Seattle, open Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.