Friday, February 20, 2015

2015 CSA Sign-ups are now open!


It's that time of year again- onion seeds are planted, the greenhouse is heating up, and CSA sign-ups are open! Read below for details about our CSA and check out the "Markets & CSA" tab for more information and the link to sign up!

The Roots of Community Supported Agriculture
The model for CSA came to the United States in the 1980s- people in different communities decided they wanted a stronger connection to their food, while farmers looked for additional outlets to sell their produce and also improve their cash flow. Once these groups connected, the customers, or members, prepaid for a “share” of produce so that the farmer could pay for seeds and supplies before the season. By doing this, members also acknowledged and embraced the risks- and rewards- that are inherent in farming. As a member of our CSA, we ask that you do the same. In return, we’ll work with our farmers to grow the best, freshest produce possible for you.

What Makes Us Unique
Juniper Gardens Training Farm – the home of the New Roots farmers – is more than just a farm – it’s also a school. Refugee farmers from different cultures come together to share their wealth of knowledge, and to learn how to adapt and apply that knowledge to the market in the United States. Some New Roots farmers will thrive as they develop long-lasting relationships with CSA Friends, while others will prefer the bustle of a high traffic market. Our job as staff is to expose farmers to every option available and help them discern which works best for them over the four years they spend at the training farm. Not everyone will be great CSA farmers, or think it’s the best option for them. We hope you’ll be patient with us, and our farmers, as we navigate the complexities of a training farm with language barriers and countless cultural differences. At the end of the season, we hope you’ll look back on your CSA experience with fond memories of delicious food and kind farmers.

The ultimate goal of our program is self-sufficiency for our farmers. This is why, when you buy a CSA with New Roots for Refugees, you’re paired with one farmer instead of getting produce aggregated from all 16 farmers. We want every farmer to experience the process of a CSA and work on developing those individual relationships. This means that our staff is coordinating over 50 CSA Friends, who each pick up at one of twelve different markets, 6 days a week, from 16 different farmers. Because of this, our staff won’t be able to tell you exactly what each farmer will have in their CSA every week, but we’ll do our best keep you informed about what’s in season, and we’ll work with our farmers to communicate with you. We also encourage you to engage with your farmer and their family about what they’re growing. There will undoubtedly be a time or two when miscommunication happens – that’s why we’re here to help! But just like we tell our farmers, if you have questions or concerns, we ask you to talk directly to them (or someone in their family) before reaching out to us. The more you can communicate with them, the faster they’ll learn what their new American customers want. Every interaction between you and your farmer is a learning opportunity- we hope you’ll embrace that part of your experience as a New Roots CSA Friend.


How Our CSA Works
New Roots CSA Friends pick up their shares every week at the same farmers market, from the same farmer. When you sign up, you’ll select your top two choices for market pickup, and you will be placed with a farmer based on your market preference. Next you’ll sign an agreement with your farmer and send in a $100 deposit to hold your spot (or the full amount if possible). The full amount will be due before the first pickup. All CSA pickups will begin between mid-May and mid-June, but will vary depending on the opening dates of different markets.

In 2015 we will offer two share sizes available for pickup at 12 markets (map) across Kansas City:

~Small share: 4-5 items every week for 18 weeks – $200

~Large share: 7-8 items every week for 18 weeks – $350

(One "item" means one bag, one box, one bunch, etc. – sizes may vary. For example, in a small share you might get 3-4 onions (depending on size), a quart box of potatoes, a bunch of carrots, and a bag of spinach.)

Additionally, we’ll be coordinating a small number of workplace drop-offs this year with farmers in their 3rd and 4th years of the program. If you have a group of 5-10 people at your office (or other centralized location, like a church, community building, etc.) who would be interested in purchasing CSA shares and having them dropped off once a week, please email mwalrafen@catholiccharitiesks.org. We have a limited number of spots open for this, so there is no guarantee that we’ll be able to accommodate everyone, unfortunately. Prices may vary slightly depending on the location of the drop-off.

What We Grow
Each of our farmers grows independently on their own ¼ acre and is responsible for what they grow and when they grow it. Below is a rough outline of what you can expect from our farmers during different seasons. New Roots farmers also grow a variety of ethnic crops that you may see when picking up your share.

~Spring (May – early June): green peas (sugar snap, shell, and snow), beets, green onions, spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale, swiss chard, asian greens (like bok choi and tatsoi), collard greens, carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, cilantro, dill, parsley, chinese cabbage

~Summer (June – August): heirloom and hybrid tomatoes, sweet peppers, hot peppers, various types of eggplant, okra, melons, cucumbers, onions, green onions, green beans, mustard greens, summer squash, basil, corn, burmese sorrel, yard long beans and noodle beans, asian cucumbers and edible gourds


~Fall (September-October): lettuce mixes, arugula, kale, collards, swiss chard, cabbage, winter squash, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, dill, peas

Monday, February 24, 2014

A New Model for CSA

Any farmers' cooperative or CSA coalition will tell you that coordinating a CSA with several farmers, over 50 members, and multiple distribution sites can be quite an ordeal. But add to that mix different cultural preferences and language barriers and you've got a whole new set of challenges!

We're constantly reevaluating our program here at New Roots, working on ways to improve our CSA model so that our farmers are exposed to alternative models of selling while delivering high quality produce to their CSA customers. Cultural and linguistic differences present unique challenges, and our goal as New Roots staff is to work with our farmers on how they can overcome those challenges. We practice English with our farmers, talk with them about the differences between the taste preferences of people from their home culture and those of many US-born citizens. But unlike the plants that grow at Juniper Gardens from seed to fruit in just a few months, English skills and understanding of cultural preferences don't develop as fast- especially with other jobs, family, school, and community commitments all taking up farmers' limited time. The "growing" that we're working towards doesn't occur in just a year.

A lot of the suggestions we get about our CSA involve having more choice, improving communication between New Roots staff, farmers, and CSA Friends, and making more options for share sizes. So we're trying something new this year.

At the beginning of the season, CSA Friends will be given a booklet of 18 vouchers, equal to one season’s CSA share. On each voucher will be:
1. The name of your farmer
2. A number indicating how many items you can select from your farmers table when you pick up your share
3. A number 1-18 indicating which week of the season the voucher is good for
      The idea is that each week, you bring your voucher for that week to the market, hand it to your farmer, and select the number of veggies you paid for from their selection. This way, you can buy a smaller share if desired, you can pick the veggies you want, and you can easily have someone else pick up your share on any given week. 

 Hate scallions? You won't have to worry about pawning them off on a friend anymore! Obsessed with cherry tomatoes? Don't stress about not having enough in your bag this week- take 3 pint boxes and it counts as 3 of your items! Going out of town but don't know how to explain to your farmer that your friend Sarah is coming to get the share next week? Just give Sarah the voucher, and your farmer will know she's there to get your share!

 We're looking forward to trying this system in 2014, and our farmers were equally as excited when we asked their thoughts. We'll do another evaluation at the end of this season, and while we know there will still be things to improve on, we hope the voucher booklet will address many of the suggestions we tend to get. 

 For those who have bought CSAs in the past, thank you for your support! We hope you'll stick around while we work to get you the freshest produce from some of the happiest & hardest-working people we know!
                  
                             _________________________________________


     If you're interested in buying a CSA share this year, check out the "Markets and CSA" page of the blog for even more details, including prices and what to expect from your CSA experience. Then you can let us know you want to buy one by filling out the 2014 New Roots CSA Interest Survey here or on the "Markets and CSA" tab. If you have questions that aren't answered on that page, contact Meredith Walrafen at mwalrafen@catholiccharitiesks.org or 913-906-8930.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Strawberries, mushrooms, and honey, oh my!

The 2013 growing season is drawing to a close here at Juniper Gardens, but that doesn't mean that there’s no work to be done! Farmers are working hard to prepare for the winter, harvest what remains in their fields, while also thinking ahead to next year. With the help and generosity of a researcher, a baker, and local pastor, New Roots farmers will be starting three projects completely new to Juniper Gardens next year.

Strawberries
Two current New Roots farmers and several graduates of the program have recently planted strawberries in their gardens as part of a pilot project aiming to improve strawberry yields in the Great Plains. Cary Rivard- Associate Professor at Kansas State University and fruit and vegetable specialist with the K-State Research and Extension office in Olathe- has been working with our farmers over last few months on his project, which aims to provide a more stable income stream for producers and encourage new growers to enter the industry.*

*For more information on Cary Rivard’s strawberry pilot project: http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/news/story/strawberry_production060513.aspx


First-year Nepali farmer Tula Regmi and his wife, Menuka, are one of two couples starting strawberries this year.
Mushrooms
Last week at our end-of-season meeting, our farmers got to hear from Chad Russell, a mushroom enthusiast and baker at Fervere, an artisan bread bakery in downtown KCMO. He talked about the process of growing mushrooms on logs and what kinds of mushrooms have an established market for demand in Kansas City. There was a lot of interest, both from graduates and current New Roots farmers, so keep your fingers crossed and you may just find mushrooms at our markets in 2014!

Chad Russell (standing, back right) presents a powerpoint to current New Roots and graduate farmers with pictures of different mushroom varieties.
Honey
Last but certainly not least is the new addition of beekeeping to our farmers’ repertoire. A local pastor has graciously offered to donate the necessary equipment to teach a few of our farmers how to keep bees and sell honey!  We’re talking with a handful of farmers about it and hope to pick a location to keep the bees in the next month, and then we just have to wait until the temperature is right in the spring! If the weather cooperates, there might be enough honey to start selling in September or October of next year. 

Other Firsts
In addition to these new, exciting developments to the Juniper Gardens Training Farm, other parts of our program have achieved “firsts” this year. Several of our graduates planted fruit trees- apple, peach, pear, and cherry- as well as blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries. A few people have also planted asparagus!

At the Bhutanese Community garden, farmers have planted fruit trees and berry bushes too, but they've also planted ferns and taro root. The fiddle heads on ferns are a popular food in Nepali culture, and taro root is a starchy plant that is often used for its gelatinous qualities.

This season has been a great one, with our farmers collectively making several thousand dollars more than they have in years before. We’re excited about the additions of fruit, honey and mushrooms to our farm and can’t wait for next year to see these projects bear fruit (literally and figuratively)!

Keep your eyes peeled for an end of year report with more details on the 2013 season!