It takes a village to raise a farm.
Just ask Rick and Roz Walsh. They have been growing fresh produce in geothermal-heated greenhouses south of Klamath Falls for 10 years. Their company, Fresh Green Organics, relies on community members who buy shares in their production.
Fresh Green Organics participates in community supported agriculture, an economic model of agriculture also known as CSA. Members of the CSA pay for their produce monthly and pick up boxes of seasonal vegetables and herbs every Wednesday in the parking lot of the Town and Country Shopping Center.
Rick Walsh knows every customer by their first and last names. Right now he has 26 customers subscribed to the CSA boxes, but said that number varies depending on the season.
“This is how my wife and I make our living,” Walsh said of his farm.
It might not look like much, a little white tent situated in the parking lot of a Big Lots store, but the CSA distribution stand yields some happy customers.
One of the first people to subscribe to Walsh’s CSA boxes was Justin Rodriguez, who has picked up produce from Walsh every week for the past six years.
“I like the food, I like the idea of supporting local business,” Rodriguez said, holding a bag full of red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, cucumbers, spinach and green beans.
Annie Sweet is new to the program, picking up her third week of produce on Wednesday. She said she paid less for the weekly CSA box than she would spend at the grocery store buying food that was not organic and not local.
“I’m super happy with it,” Sweet said. “I love it. It definitely beats the stuff you get from the grocery store, and I’m actually saving money. You can’t even get local stuff at the grocery store.”
A number of customers said that knowing where their food comes from is a big reason they participate in the CSA program.
Christy Cox is one of them. She has been a loyal customer of Walsh’s for six years.
“I do it because I don’t like my food trucked all the way from around the country,” Cox said. “It’s fresh, local, and it’s not been on a truck from who knows where for how long.”
The CSA boxes are just part of Walsh’s production. In the 63-thousand square-feet of greenhouse space at his farm, he is also busy growing micro-greens, tiny greens used in salads or as garnishes, and shipping them to a number of stores across the country.
Currently, his micro-greens and herbs are shipped as far as Denver and Los Angeles. He also sells to Whole Foods markets in the north west and at co-op grocery stores in Ashland and Medford.
The community’s participation in the CSA allows Walsh to employ around 10 employees, like field manager Othon Duarte, who harvest the produce by hand, cutting the micro-greens with scissors.
Duarte has worked at Fresh Green Organics for two and a half years.
“I go into the field and harvest whatever they tell me and I make it ready to come to the farmers market,” Duarte said. “And I sell it and I make the CSA, too.”
The Fresh Green Organics stands at the Wednesday and Saturday farmers markets also sells individual produce to customers not part of the CSA program.
They accept food stamps and participate in the Double-Up Food Bucks program, which matches EBT food stamp dollars up to 10 dollars at the farmers markets.