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Keeping It Local 

Community supported agriculture guarantees earthly rewards


07.23.08


Tucked away off of a narrow country road in Sebastopol, First Light Farm is difficult to find. One must pass through a gate, over a bridge and climb a winding uphill path before seeing the first rows of crops and hoop houses rising high above the soil. But this seclusion seems to fit the magical serenity that hangs over the three-acre property.

Owner and master farmer Nathan Boone has a calm majesty about him as he moves among the products of his careful cultivation. Boone, who shares the workload with only his daughter and the foreman, looks tired and satisfied. He describes his farming as a constant exploration, discovery and learning process. For him, farming isn't purely about producing food. "It's about intention," he says, "where you are putting your heart."

Practicing sustainable methods and inspired by biodynamic agriculture originally propounded by Rudolf Steiner, Boone says farming is his way of connecting with the earth. "You can't just write about it or talk about it," he says. "You have to be in it, working with it."

This communion is exactly what participants of community supported agriculture, or CSA, are looking for. Buying produce from local farmers allows consumers to connect to the food they eat, knowing it hasn't been sprayed with chemicals, genetically modified or shipped from thousands of miles away. Pollution from diesel fuels and unnecessary packaging is prevented.

With a set number of customers, farmers are able to grow just the right amount without wasting crops, and members agree in advance to share the losses if a farm has a bad turnout. The majority of CSAs charge for a weekly full or half share of produce, sometimes providing the option of such "add-ons" as flowers, dairy products or specialty items like honey or jam for an additional charge. Some farms ask members to volunteer a certain amount of time on the farm in addition to paying the subscription fee.

Members have the thrill of never knowing what to expect each week, when a new box filled with fresh delicacies is delivered or picked up. Most CSA farms include an informative letter with each share along with different recipe ideas for the foods in the box. Subscribers bump into each other at pickup sites and form friendships, turning shopping into a pleasant communal gathering refreshingly unlike the rushed sterility of supermarkets.

Biting into a bright yellow Taxi tomato, Boone describes the difference in taste and quality as biologically and physically unexplainable. "It's the feeling and reality of all the love that goes into it," he says. "People can taste it somehow."


Pay Dirt

Experience the delights of fresh organic produce at any of these local CSAs

Canvas Ranch Season, year-round. Two hundred shares. Full share, $28 per week (four-week minimum); half-season, $320 (three months of weekly deliveries, a 5 percent discount); full season, $570 (six months of weekly deliveries, a 15 percent discount). No volunteer work required. Deborah Walton, 755 Tomales Road, Petaluma. 707.766.7171.

First Light Farm Season from June through December. Fifty shares. Full share, $20 per week; half-share, $14 per week. No volunteer work required. Nathan Boone, Bollinger Lane, Sebastopol. 707.480.5346.

Laguna Farm Season, year-round. Four hundred fifty shares. Full share, $16 per week with $75 deposit, billed monthly. Additional charge for drop-site deliveries as well as fruit, bread and extra salad options. No volunteer work required. Scott Mathieson, 1764 Cooper Road, Sebastopol. 707.823.0823.

Orchard Farm Season, year-round. Twenty-five shares. Full share, $18 per week, prepaid monthly. No volunteer work required. Kenneth Orchard, 10951 Barnett Valley Road, Sebastopol. 707.823.6528.

Shea's Organics Season from May through November. Twenty shares. Full share, $25 per week. No volunteer work required. Erin Shea, Tre Monte Lane, Healdsburg. 707.495.0727.

Sol Food Farm Season from June through November. Forty shares. Full share, $750 per year. Volunteer work required. Brandon Pugh, 4388 Harrison Grade Road, Sebastopol. 707.874.2300.

Tierra Vegetables Season from May through December. Two hundred shares. Full share, $20 per week. No volunteer work required. Evie Truxaw, Airport Boulevard, Santa Rosa. 707.837.8366.

Valley End Farm Season from March through December. Small box, $20 per week; large box, $25 per week. No volunteer work required. Sharon Grossi, 6300 Petaluma Hill Road, Santa Rosa. 707.585.1123.

Wild Rose Ranch Season from June through November. Twenty shares. Full share, $550 per season; half-share, $300 per season. No volunteer work required. Eleanor Hilmer, 5365 Sonoma Mountain Road, Santa Rosa. 707.545.6062.


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