Sustainable Connections' workplace CSA June challenge still on

Sustainable Connections has issued a special challenge to all businesses to support small local farmers.

Employees and businesses of all sizes were encouraged to start or expand workplace community supported agriculture deliveries in June to help bolster small farms.

The CSA farm business model is designed to create relationships between the people who grow and eat local food.

Customers buy a share of the farm with a CSA membership at the beginning of the season and then receive a weekly share of the harvest from the farmer.

Eight Whatcom farms offered Workplace CSA deliveries this year, but so far sales are down from the same time last year.

CSA farmers reported there are more than 150 memberships unsold–even as the first June deliveries of the season begin to roll out.

“When we heard farmers who offer CSAs were concerned about not having enough members this year, we created the 30-day CSA challenge right away,” said Laura Ridenour, Sustainable Connections’ food and farming program manager.

Mike Finger, a member of the Nooksack Valley Farmers’ Co-op who also owns Cedarville Farm, said that the workplace CSA model is a great marketing outlet for the co-ops farmers.

“Workplace CSA links working communities with local growers, creating new and healthy food options for folks in the places they work, while providing another plank of economic support for local farms,” Finger said. “The scope of CSA we could take on as individual farms is comparatively small. Most farmers in the co-op cultivate a large variety of crops on fairly small acreages. By aggregating the products of our 10 farms, however, we are able to offer larger institutions and businesses, like PeaceHealth, a farm share that is diverse, delicious and entirely local.”

The weekly box of diverse and seasonal veggies typically costs $20 to $25 per week and can feed two to three people.

Some CSA farms accept EBT food stamp payments.

Some employers have also offered payroll deduction or matched the cost for those who sign up for Workplace CSAs.

A report on 2010 and 2011 workplace CSA successes are available at the Sustainable Connections website.

Each new CSA member in the month of June will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win one of two Community Food Co-op $50 gift cards, Ridenour said.

Those who have already joined a CSA farm are encouraged to offer the challenge to their co-workers, friends and neighbors.

Employers of all sizes can learn more by visiting the Sustainable Business Practice webpage, or contacting Laura Ridenour at 360-647-7093, Ex. 106.

More information is available here.

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