Spring 2020 is seeing a HUGE growth in support for local food through models like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), like a weekly or monthly seasonal harvest box delivery. We wanted to catch up with farmers in the YA network who are connecting directly with their communities through their protein and vegetable CSA and pick their brains!
Amanda and Ewan Forrest operate Forrest Farm in Salmo, a small-scale, mixed farm that they are diligently building towards being a zero waste farmstead creamery. Now in their fifth year on the property, they are currently producing natural goat milk soap and natural wool products that they sell at multiple markets.
Last fall they hosted an on-farm event and thirty curious community members joined us on the farm for the first day of daylight savings for a tour and fireside potluck. The group photos in this article were taken that day. Thanks again for hosting us, Forrest Farm! Read on to learn more about how they operate their CSA and if you’d like to support them directly, you can sign up on their website.
Why did you choose the CSA model?
We decided on the CSA model because we felt that it was the best way to build support in our farm, and to be able to secure some of the up front expenses needed to plan and invest for the season.
What does operating your CSA entail?
We have been operating a 6 month CSA at this point, and for the Spring we will be shifting to a 20 week box. Our monthly customers picked up at the Rossland and Nelson Farmers markets, but with the weekly program we are trying to move away from that to focus traffic to our farm stand.
We are planning to have pickups on the farm at the farmstand, which will allow customers to see exactly where their food is coming from and also see the direct impact that their investment is having on our development. With the uncertain nature of Farmers’ Markets (due to both weather and now Covid-19), it helps us control exposure, ensure a perfect product, and keeps us healthy and to continue the demanding work on the farm.
What are some of the benefits of CSAs for communities?
The CSA program helps customers have a more direct relationship with their food, the farm, the distribution chain, and helps keep each dollar in the community. Our CSA not only helps our farm, but also our local suppliers, processors, and partner farms. Each dollar spent stays in the local economy, and helps grow our community and the local agricultural sector as a whole.
What do you want people to know about your business/CSA?
We are an environmentally focused, ethical farm dedicated to animal health and welfare. We want all our animals to live the safest, the most stress-free, and as natural a life as possible. We are taking a wholistic approach to regenerative farming, and striving to be a zero waste farm. We are offering re-useable, and re-fillable products, compostable packaging wherever possible, and eliminating any waste streams that cannot be repurposed.
What is different about CSAs and other ways people connect with farmers?
In the general grocery store distribution system there is an incredible detachment from the farm, and even from the product you are buying. A CSA becomes more than just looking for a higher quality, it comes with an understanding that the quality is earned through a higher standard. The first thing that I thought when we started growing our first garden and raising animals, was that food in a grocery store should never be as cheap as it is.
The cost of producing a garden crop, and feeding animals a proper, balanced, and healthy diet definitely is not possible from the price point set by factory farms. When adding in wage, transport, and overhead, the margin left for animal welfare is truly abysmal. The CSA program helps keep small farms competitive, and allows small farmers a chance to make a difference.
What do you like about farming in the Kootenays?
Farming in the Kootenays has been amazing. The support from not only the community, but from other farmers has been incredibly encouraging. While the growing climate may not be the most ideal (when compared to the Okanagan or the Coast) it has fostered some incredibly warm and focused farmers, with resourcefulness, ingenuity, support and dedication.
Anything else you’d like to share with your community?
We are proud to be part of the Kootenay farming community, and would like to express our deepest thanks to our Friends, Partner Farms, and Market co-ordinators; but above all else we would like to thank our customers, without them none of this would be possible.
GOT LAND? WANT LAND?
Through the B.C. Land Matching Program, Young Agrarians is offering support to farmers looking for land for their farm business and landowners looking for farmers to farm their land. You can send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Columbia Basin event series is made possible with funding from Columbia Basin Trust.