by Tom Sims
Tom Sims searches the Valley for tips on eating healthy, buying healthy food, growing healthy food, and eating out healthy in the Valley, for this Healthy Eating in the Valley column. Feel free to share your suggestions of places and things to check out!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal produce directly from a farmer in their community. It is a method of closing the gap between the farmer and the consumer, assuring that families can receive local, healthy food in season. CSA is a form of handshake where everyone wins. The farmer and the consumer save money and high quality, organic produce is delivered to the people and places where it is needed. There are several such providers in the greater Fresno area. We will look at two, OOOOBY and Abundant Harvest and mention a third.
The value of local food is that it is fresher and grown under conditions that can be readily observed by the buyer. Local food is best and local food is all that Ooooby and Abundant Harvest offer. Benefits accrue to farmers as well. They are encouraged and rewarded. In turn, they benefit the community. The San Joaquin Valley is the world’s produce garden. Yet, so much of what is grown here is processed and transported away, and so much of what we purchase and eat is grown and processed in other places. Communities and ecosystems pay the price for that. Farmer’s markets are wonderful, but they are not accessible or convenient for all families. Sometimes they are only open when people are at work.
Ooooby stands for “Out of Our Own Backyards.” They say that they are “like a farmers market to go.” Instead of the consumer having to go to the market, negotiate with farmers, and pick out the things from the stand to take home, boxes are prepared according to the consumer’s general specifications and delivered regularly to a location near them. The offerings are fresh, local, and organic. The participant can enjoy good food and support local farmers. Various subscription options are available that vary in size and frequency. Ordering can be done online at www.ooooby.org/fresno.
Ooooby says that it is their mission “to make local food convenient, affordable, and fair everywhere. We are passionate about providing the community with the healthiest, freshest, and most sustainable produce sourced from local farmers.” Jenny Saklar, an Ooooby spokesperson, says, “We have a real food accessibility component. We accept EBT payments for low and middle income families and allow them to access the good healthy food of the Valley.” As part of its commitment to food security and accessibility, Ooooby has a program called “Everyone Eats” which creates substantial discounts for people who need them most.
Ooooby’s offerings are 100% certified organic produce delivered to 25 locations in Fresno, Clovis, Madera, Merced, Reedley, Oakhurst, and Coarsegold. Consumers can choose from 4 box sizes and weekly or every two weeks delivery. Add-ons are available and listed on the site including extra produce items and healthy local food products such as farm fresh eggs, olive oils, nuts, bread, and so forth. Ooooby is available year round. Prices start at $16 per week or every other week minimum.
While the Ooooby movement is larger than the Valley, locally, it is shepherded by Food Commons Fresno. It has its own website at www.ooooby.org/fresno and a Facebook page. Ooooby draws its produce from a number of local farms including the local legend, T.D. Willey who closed his own CSA and merged his energies in with Ooooby fairly recently. To appreciate the legacy of Willey, view this video that represents his commitments and those of many farmers like him.
Abundant Harvest is the vision of its founder Verne Peterson, sometimes known as “Uncle Verne.” Dennis Rosales Sr. is an articulate ambassador for Abundant Harvest. He credits founder Verne Peterson with the ethos of the company. Vernon started the CSA to keep his own farm alive and to help his friends and neighbors do the same. Verne’s philosophy is to make fresh, local, organic produce affordable and available to all. Beyond that, he desires to encourage others to start their own organic gardens and says, “If you can’t, we are here.” Helping others out is what drives Vernon according to Rosales who says he is a “good, honest, godly man who wants to share.”
Peterson is as committed to quality as Ooooby. Organic gardening is a passion for him. “If it’s on our truck,” he insists, “it’s organic.” He has, like Ooooby, drawn from local farmers who stand behind every product they offer. Consumers have 72 hours to reject produce that does not meet their standards. They utilize community hosts to distribute the boxes on a weekly basis. Each host functions as a private business, collecting the money and distributing the food. Boxes come small, large, big, weekly or otherwise.
Originating in Kingsburg, California, Abundant Harvest reaches a number of counties in the valley through its distribution channels. They describe themselves as “an alliance of California organic family farmers dedicated to growing superior organic produce and getting it to you in the simplest manner possible. Weekly, we deliver super fresh, affordable, seasonal, always certified organic produce to over 60 communities across the state.” In addition to the local produce, Abundant Harvest supplies California produced organic add-ons such as grass-fed beef, chicken, pastured pork, raw milk, raw cheeses, honey, pastured eggs, nuts, beans, and grains.
Their website is www.ahorganics.com and their Facebook page is very active with weekly offerings and recipes. See www.abundantharvestorganics.com for pricing. Prices are competitive and subject to delivery site.
They list their benefits as:
* Organic produce only; we don’t substitute!
* Unparalleled taste; varieties are chosen and harvested for taste and nutritional value rather than shelf-life and aesthetics
* Superior quality and value; fairly priced significantly below retail value of same product from grocer
* Fresh, fresh, fresh; from the soil to your dinner table in one to two days!
* Supporting small California family farmers; investing in our state’s people, its resources, and its physical, environmental, and economic health
Meet Uncle Vern in this video: youtu.be/x3pAK4g_lO8. Founded in 2007, Abundant Harvest says, “Just like many of you, our family has been on a journey to live and eat healthy. Which, much to our dismay, we discovered is extremely expensive to accomplish. We decided that was unacceptable, especially if we had the ability to improve this struggle for enhancing health. Thus, our desire for affordable, chemically unaltered food led us to develop Abundant Harvest Organics. We have uncovered an approach to natural food distribution that will deliver organic produce at conventional prices within hours of harvest. And above all, we pledge to simply bring you the family farm and allow you to answer the simple question: ‘Who is your Farmer?’” Email Vernon at vernon@AbundantHarvestOrganics[dot]com.
One thing I must try is this Corn Pudding Recipe www.abundantharvestkitchen.com/corn-pudding.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a growing movement in America. It benefits farmers who practice traditional family farming in a time when it is difficult to earn a living doing so. It provides them economic support and predictability so they are able to continue to farm. As a result, their communities gain the advantage of fresh, local farm products, and consumers can know where their food is coming from and have the satisfaction of supporting local agriculture.
The concept of Community Supported Agriculture came to America in 1985, introduced by Robyn Van En and was modeled in South Egremont, Massachusetts. She had learned of the concept from a Swiss friend, Jan Vander Tuin, and within 4 years her farm’s original membership of 30 grew to 150.
One would be remiss not to mention Farmer’s Daughter, a CSA that has been around for some time and is located at 706 12th Ave, Kingsburg, California 93631. Their delivery and weekly order form is available at their online document. Their website is active. They can be emailed at thefarmersdaughter.csa@gmail[dot]com. They also have a Facebook page.
Finally, “Food Commons Fresno is growing a community food system that fosters health, stewardship, equity, and economic development. This system includes farm production, processing, distribution, and retail sales in Fresno and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley.”
Since CSA is a form of handshake where everyone wins. Plan to win by shaking hands with one of these CSAs this week. Save money and have high quality, organic produce is delivered to your family. Eat healthily in this Valley. This is where the food is grown!