Jan Norris: Food and Florida

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Whole Foods Markets Become Drop-off Sites for CSA Farm-Delivered Produce

February 8th, 2011 · 2 Comments

A CSA box of vegetables

Whole Foods stores are encouraging CSAs – Community Supported Agriculture farmers – by becoming a central drop-off point for the farmers and their customers.

The plan will allow Swank Farms, a Loxahatchee-based natural farm that supplies to many chefs, to conveniently deliver foods to customers who subscribe to their farm. They’ll deliver boxes to customers through the Boca Raton, Wellington and Fort Lauderdale Whole Foods markets.

Russ Benblatt, marketing coordinator for Whole Foods, says that though Whole Foods sells local produce when they can get it, “it’s just not possible for every farm to be represented on our shelves.”

The plan has been tested for a few months at the stores, and they’re now ready to move forward to bring in more CSAs and offer customers the opportunity to learn about their community farms.

How a CSA works

A community supported farm works by planting by subscription. Individuals sign up at the beginning of the planting season – typically August in South Florida – and pay to become a member, and the farmers plant their crops to harvest for their customers as well as others. In Palm Beach County, Green Cay Farms in Boynton Beach and Swank Farms in Loxahatchee sell by subscription.

As the fruits and vegetables are harvested throughout the season, boxes of fresh produce are delivered weekly or bi-weekly – sometimes monthly, depending on the farm.

Buyers are sent a list at the season’s start and get a choice — to a degree — of certain foods they’d like in their boxes. If they like spinach but don’t care for collards, they might get two bags of spinach and someone else gets more collards. If the farm has a bumper crop of tomatoes, everyone might get more tomatoes one week, or they can buy extra. Emails are sent weekly to customers to let them know what’s actually happening with the farm.

Cost for CSAs range typically from $25 to $50 a week – depending on how much is requested. But the customer is betting on good harvests – they pay even if they farmer can’t deliver due to freezes or storms that take out crops.

Still, the popularity is there. Nancy Roe of Green Cay Farms CSA says that her limited subscriptions sell out within the first week of being announced. The growing popularity of the local farms, and the difficulty small farmers have delivering to customers within a broad area, prompted Whole Foods to get involved in the project that’s already a success in other states.

“It’s all about supporting the local farms in a way we never have before,” said Matt Lamoreaux, produce coordinator for Whole Foods’ Florida region. “We want people to discover the heritage and variety of farming here in Florida and we couldn’t think of a more exciting way to do it.”

Note: If you’re a small farmer and involved in a CSA, and want to find out more about the program, contact the team leader of the Whole Foods nearest you.

Tags: What's Happening Here

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 phil // Feb 9, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    FANTASTIC!!! I will sign up pronto 🙂

  • 2 Patty // Feb 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    This is a great idea and a great way for Whole Foods to support local farmers.
    Another option is Palm Beach Organics which is not exactly a CSA but they are a buying group who delivers organic vegetables to your door. I have been getting deliveries from them for over a year now and look forward to their delivery every other week. Some people get weekly deliveries – http://www.palmbeachorganics.org

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