Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 22
Keeping it localSee how these small farms are changing the way we support local agriculture
BY KRISTINA SEWELL
The grand white house, originally built in 1927, stands among imposing industrial buildings on Blosser Road. With a scattering of trees and a small vegetable stand in the driveway, the house is a throwback to small-town Santa Maria.
The property belongs to Jerry Mahoney, a third-generation farmer and owner of Blosser Urban Garden TKP Farms. Unlike other farms in the area, Blosser Urban Garden remains a relatively small operation, farming about five acres.
“My family always wanted to have a small organic farm where we can work together,” Mahoney said.
Despite the farm’s diminutive size, Mahoney and his wife Alejandra have been doing big things for the community since they started serving the public via Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Community Supported Agriculture is the alternative form of farming and food distribution sweeping the country. After signing up with a CSA farm, members pay a fee to receive a box of fresh vegetables and fruits every week throughout the growing season.
In addition to providing support for local farmers and healthy food for families, CSAs link the producer and the consumer through a mutual interest: consume locally what is produced locally.
According to the Rodale Institute, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit group that supports organic farming research, CSAs have slowly taken root in America over the last 18 years.
Originally a grassroots movement cultivated after World War I, CSAs now total more than 4,000 across the United States. According to Local Harvest, the largest online directory for American CSAs, tens of thousands of people joined a CSA last year alone.
Mahoney and Alejandra first started paying attention to CSAs six or seven years ago. After reading about it in Trade Magazine, consulting fellow farmers, and attending an organic CSA conference, Mahoney decided Blosser Urban Gardens would thrive as a CSA. Blosser Urban Gardens has been a certified CSA for about three years, and certified organic since 1996, using only organic compost and fertilizer.
Growing many of the vegetables on the property surrounding his home, Mahoney nurtures and cultivates 10 to 12 seasonal fruits and vegetables.
“I can plan my growing and how much I grow around the CSA,” Mahoney said.
That means more efficient farming and less food waste. If produce goes unsold, Mahoney puts it back into the earth by tossing it in his compost pile.
Delivery day is Monday, so every Thursday Mahoney figures out how many deliveries he can expect that week and what produce they have enough of. On Friday, a list goes out to customers revealing the week’s produce. Saturday through Monday, Mahoney, his son, and some volunteers prepare the CSA bags for that week by harvesting, washing, and boxing the produce.
A recent bag featured carrots, onions, strawberries, cilantro, kale, cabbage, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, and yellow cabbage.
Mahoney delivers to about 57 customers each week or every other week. He also grows herbs such as cilantro and basil to throw in. Items that aren’t grown at Blosser Urban Garden are bought from other local farms, like D and G Innovative, Bonipak, and Nojoqui Farms.
Having come full circle from big operation to small scale, Mahoney has yet to regret his decision to become a certified CSA farmer. He said that signing up for a CSA requires an adventurous attitude. Every week, he introduces customers to less-known but delicious vegetables such as bok choy, and pole beans.
“We get to educate people in a safe environment where they can learn new things,” Mahoney said. “If you love vegetables, want to eat local, and like the surprise, then signing up for a CSA is a good choice.”
As another part of the educational aspect, the farm has a blog maintained by Alejandra with recipes that include certain vegetables.
For Mahoney, the other upside to running a small CSA operation is that it keeps him in touch with the public.
“It’s like having an extended family or community,” he said.
CSAs reap numerous benefits for both the farmer and consumer: They help support local business, finance farm operations, and allow farmers to get to know the people for whom they grow. According to Local Harvest, consumers are exposed to new vegetables and ways of cooking, organic food, and learning more about how produce is grown.
The idea of a CSA is rather simple, yet its impact has been profound; in some places, the demand exceeds the supply of a CSA farm.
An article in the July 2012 issue of Sunset magazine revealed that some newer variations of CSAs have now grown to include farms selling preserves, coffee, meat, dairy, fruit, and even pasta to members.
Mahoney said he’d eventually like to see Blosser Urban Garden expand its operation to produce more fruit and maybe some preserves. Mahoney realizes that the CSA concept might not appeal to everyone, so he does allow customers to buy produce from his stand or choose their own produce for the week.
“It’s a responsibility. We work hard for our produce,” Mahoney said. ”We take a lot of pride in what we do.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nipomo pipeline survives injunction attempt The pursuit of happyness - An immigrant from Mexico, now a successful business owner, talks about raising an Americanized family Cougars & Mustangs The grand scheme of things - State Parks again mulls purchasing the La Grande Tract--but will the county stand for it? Rolling blacktop - SLO Ballerz train to take on Berkeley Revolution Steve Moss lives on Lucia Mar re-funds some cut programs