Wild Forks farmshare by Wild Forks Farm. (Submitted photo)

Wild Forks farmshare by Wild Forks Farm. (Submitted photo)

North Olympic Land Trust picks CSAs for 22nd Farmer of the Year

Farm shares important in pandemic

PORT ANGELES — The North Olympic Land Trust’s 2020 Farmer of the Year is a team effort.

Land Trust representatives announced last week they will recognize local farms modeling Community Supported Agriculture (CAS) programs with the trust’s 22nd annual Farmer of the Year award at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30.

The Farmer of the Year Award will be presented at a free online event, “Rooted in Community — Celebrating Our Local Bounty.” A Zoom link will be provided at tinyurl.com/PDN-Farmer closer to the date.

The local CAS includes eight farms spread across Clallam County: Bent Gate Farms, Chi’s Farm, Griffith Farm CSA, River Run Farm, Salt Creek Farm, SisterLand Farms, Wild Edge Farm and Wild Forks Farm.

CSA is a farming model that sees buyers invest at the beginning of the growing season with a subscription of fresh local goods, also known as a farm share.

Shares are traditionally available weekly via pick-up or at drop-off points.

Customers benefit from such programs by getting “a personal, transparent relationship with their food supply” along with fresh, seasonal food, while small farm staff members get crucial funds up front and have a steady market for their goods throughout the season.

Popularized in North America in the mid-1980s, CSAs have expanded beyond fruits and vegetables to include items such as eggs, meat, dairy, flowers and honey, Land Trust representatives say.

“This has been a difficult year in so many ways,” said Tom Sanford, Land Trust executive director. “Community Supported Agriculture serves as one of the bright spots for our community.

“It is wonderful to see these mutually beneficial relationships between local farms and families. These connections have real community-building power, especially in these hard times.”

Since 1999, the Land Trust and its predecessor, Friends of the Fields, have selected a Farmer of the Year, an annual award which honors individuals and/or organizations that have positively and significantly impacted the local farming community.

Last year’s award went to Sarah and Ryan McCarthey, owners of Dungeness Valley Creamery.

Other past recipients include farmers Nash Huber (Nash’s Organic Produce), Gene Adolphson, Christie and Kelly Johnston (Johnston Farm), Tom and Holly Clark (Clark Farms) and Steve Johnson (Lazy J Tree Farm), as well as individuals such as Bob Caldwell and organizations such as WSU Clallam County Extension.

Griffith Farm CSA shares ready for pickup by Griffith Farm CSA. (Submitted photo)

Griffith Farm CSA shares ready for pickup by Griffith Farm CSA. (Submitted photo)

About the farms

Salt Creek Farm in Joyce pioneered CSAs in Clallam County and began offering farm shares to the community in 1993. The CSA serves about 60 households, some of which have been part of the program for more than 25 years.

Farmer Doug Hendrickson said that interest in the Salt Creek CSA increased due to COVID-19, and the farm had to turn away potential subscribers.

“The challenges of COVID-19 have proven the CSA as a good model for food security,” he said. “The CSA model means we are less reliant on the fluctuations in the supply chain, labor and markets.”

Bent Gate Farms (Agnew), Griffith Farms CSA (Dungeness), Wild Edge Farm (Elwha) and Wild Forks Farm (Sappho) report similar stories of increased CSA interest this past spring, Land Trust representatives say.

“Since the onset of COVID-19, the demand for membership has increased,” Wild Forks farmer Brittany Jones said. “Our farm share program provides our customers with a safe alternative for receiving fresh produce. We currently have a waiting list for next season.”

Wild Edge farmers Jim and Karen Weaver said: “We especially appreciate the chance to engage our CSA members in getting to know us and the variety of vegetables that they are offered each week.”

At SisterLand Farms (Port Angeles), customers told farmer Arleen Jenson they cherish the hand-painted recipe cards that were sent with their shares.

“If they have a request, I take it seriously and do my best to make their investment in SisterLand pay off,” Jenson said. “SisterLand CSA members are not only getting fed — they’re being brought into the fold.”

Likewise, farms that are closely connected to their community are inspired to give back; when they have extra or unclaimed CSA shares, farms are able to provide food for local food banks and families in need.

Goods from Wild Edge CSA. (Christine Epperson-Auger)

Goods from Wild Edge CSA. (Christine Epperson-Auger)

Community support and feedback can help create interesting variations on the traditional CSA model, customized to fit diverse community needs.

Chi’s Farm (Dungeness) and Bent Gate Farms have partnered to offer a popular vegetable and meat combo farm share.

At River Run Farm (Dungeness), customers can use an online form to indicate specific preferences, effectively personalizing their farm share.

The non-traditional CSA model offered by Griffith Farm CSA is an intentional effort to make fresh healthy food more easily accessible to everyone by removing the barrier of an up-front payment.

Griffith Farm CSA has a base of about 30 loyal customers who are given the flexibility to pay weekly based on finances, vacation schedules and other needs.

“It is our hope that even those who cannot pay in advance, or even commit to every week of the growing season, can still reap the benefits of eating organic, locally grown food,” farmer Jessica Hernandez said.

Farmer Anna Swanberg of Bent Gate Farms sums up the power of the community supported agriculture: “Although Bryan and I both grew up here, we feel even more attached to the people in our community through the farm and the food we grow. We are so thankful for the support people give small farms in our community.”

Griffith Farm CSA farmers added: “In a pandemic, we are not only feeding ourselves, but we hope that we are helping lessen the burden of our subscribers and community members by helping nourish them all. Food is love, and the health of our community is everything.”

For more information, visit northolympiclandtrust.org.

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