colour-carrotBack in January, I wrote about how Capetonians could become part of a new CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) organic box scheme.

Just to recap, a CSA is a “partnership between an agricultural or artisan producer and a group of consumers. The consumers sponsor the production of a specific crop or product at the beginning of the CSA, and during the season, the producer responds with frequent reports on that crop’s development and growth, and the consumers can visit the producer to learn more about how crop is grown, and even help with the harvest.”

I joined the summer CSA, of course, and every week for the duration of the project, I received a bag of vegetables grown organically on a small piece of land just behind Spier.  And every week there was feedback from the farm:  what was growing, what I might expect in the next bag, what farmer Eric was planning for his land, and news of his specially trained Eastern Cape oxen, with which he tills the soil.

It made me feel like I was part of the process, somehow… and I looked forward to my first farm visit, which happened in mid-April (one of three farm visits organised during the CSA’s run).  I saw Eric the farmer’s beautiful oxen, watched as cattle were used to graze land naturally (in demarcated, previously uncultivated areas) instead of bringing in the big soil-compacting machinery  and heard about battles with bugs (the mielie crop didn’t do too well that season).

I enjoyed being a part of a project where I felt involved, even if only peripherally, and I will certainly do it again.  With any new initiative, there will always be some glitches (the delay between picking and delivery, for example), and I have to say I never knew I could eat so many green beans, let alone find ways to cook them differently (there was, to say the least, a glut of the things) but the joy of something collaborative like this is that with feedback from participants those issues can get addressed.

And so a new, improved CSA has emerged:

We are delighted to announce that we will be running another Slow Food Cape Town Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) vegetable project this winter.

With a vegetable CSA, you pay at the beginning of the CSA and get a share of a small, emerging farmer’s organic harvest, to be picked up at a convenient collection point once a week for the period of the CSA.

Following the successful run of our summer veggie CSA, we have taken your comments and our experiences to heart and evolved the process slightly.

The Slow Food Cape Town Winter 2009 CSA involves, in a nutshell:

  • Two small, organic farmers, Erick Zenzele and Eric Swarts
  • A weekly veggie bag containing a constantly changing selection of SIX vegetables
  • one bottled ‘surprise’ each month, from the Sustainability Institute’s home preserving project
  • Three collection points for you to choose from, in Newlands, Pinelands or Vredehoek
  • A weekly email newsletter
  • An online blog with information, links, recipes and a chance to interact with other CSA members
  • Farm outings to Eric and Erick’s farms, to meet your farmers, see the crops and learn about how they are grown
  • A total of EIGHT weeks of vegetable delights, running from Tuesday 30 June through Tuesday 18 August 2009
  • A total cost of R462, which averages to R57.75 for each week

Reconnect with how, when and where your food is grown!

Having two farmers instead of one ensures variety that was sometimes lacking in the first round.  And, having direct collection points instead of using the Ethical Coop’s extensive but delay-causing network means your vegetables will be fresh from the farm, picked that morning instead of a few days before.

We loved working with the Ethical Co-Op team on the last CSA; they were helpful and friendly and allowed us to reach more CSA members in more locations. However, the complexity and size of their delivery system meant that CSA members were getting their vegetables three days after they were harvested, with no cold storage in between. We feel that when you buy directly from a farmer, the vegetables should be as fresh as possible. So by sacrificing a wide-reaching delivery system, we have gained the chance to get your vegetables to you the same day as they are harvested. Unless you grow your own, these will be the freshest veggies you can get in Cape Town.

In addition, the money we paid Ethical can now be used to pay our farmers more, and to create an income for Piet, our delivery guy.

So, I for one will definitely be signing up, and I look forward to another farm visit some time in the next couple of months.  Space is limited so if you want in, get in touch with Kate at kate@slowfoodcsa.co.za

For more detailed information, visit www.slowfoodcsa.co.za

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