By Sheila McCoy - Staff Writer: firstname.lastname@example.org, Morrison County Record
Signing up for community supported agriculture (CSA) shares at Sprout in Little Falls not only gives members access to fresh vegetables. It’s also a great way to support local growers and know where the food came from, said Jessie Bavelli, food hub and marketplace director.
Shareholders can choose to either sign up for a full or a half share. A full share gives members the opportunity to pick up a three-quart bushel box of vegetables weekly for the 16-week season, from about mid-June to September.
Each box is carefully packed with a wide variety of products, such as vegetables, herbs and shelf-stable products.
What kind of vegetables are packed depends primarily on the time of the season they mature. Some of the vegetables that are included in the box are cucumbers, leeks, different types of tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, carrots, potatoes, onions, varieties of squash, spinach, kale and more.
Examples of herbs that are packed are rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano and more.
Products such as wild rice, honey, local flour breads, jams and jellies, maple syrup, fresh eggs and rhubarb are also included.
“All of the products are produced by multiple local farms. One of the benefits to the CSA model is that you have such a great variety. Through the season members can see well over 60 different products in their shares,” she said. The same amount of food in a box is given to the members who choose to go with the biweekly option. Instead of picking up the CSA share weekly, it is picked up every other week. Sprout has four pickup locations — Little Falls, Staples, Brainerd and Baxter.
Those who are interested in signing up for a CSA share can do so by visiting www.sproutmn.com and clicking on the food hub link.
Sprout works with several producers who are located within a 100-miles radius of Little Falls. Some of the growers are certified organic, while others are not certified, but follow the same principles as if they were, Bavelli said.
The CSA program at Sprout was established in 2013, a year after Sprout was founded. It was a way to expand Sprout’s marketing effort beyond the wholesale they do with institutional accounts, such as schools, restaurants, hospitals, senior care facilities and more. They knew the community agricultural motto and the shared system would be the way to go, Bavelli said.
“CSA help enhance the relationship between the grower and the consumer of that food. That relationship follows through the whole season,” she said. “As you sign up a member, you are essentially pledging to share any potential risks that come with growing in agriculture — the weather, droughts, crop failure and pest disease. Then of course, in return, you get to enjoy the benefits and the rewards from a successful farming season.”
During the CSA season, Sprout sends a weekly email product list to its members, about where it is coming from and who the producers are. Every so often, Sprout includes various recipes in the emails with suggestions about how the members can use some of the vegetables and how to store food safely.
“One of the benefits that is really important and is why we do this work is in general to support the small family farms that are producing this fresh and nutritious food,” Bavelli said. “They are a huge asset to our community and do a lot to help and better our communities through the work they do. Without them we wouldn’t be in this line of work,” Bavelli said.
It is also an opportunity to educate the members on ways to enhance their culinary skills.