The EATEN PATH: Community Supported Agriculture in Chilliwack
From growing food at home to the politics of the ALR, The Eaten Path is a new, ongoing feature that looks at what we eat, how it is produced and the path our food takes to our table.
After walking past rows of garlic into Andy and Cara Abrahams's kale patch at Abundant Acres in Greendale, we snap off a couple of the light green tops of winterbor and red Russian kale and pop them in our mouths.
The fresh crunch of the delicious new growth tastes like spring.
The Abrahamses are harvesting the kale this day to sell at the Abbotsford Farm & Country Market the next day.
(See here for an article on kale's health benefits and recipes for pickled kale salad and kale chips.)
The Eaten Path is all about where we get our food and, for non-gardeners, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) harvest box is the closest you can get to growing your own. The Abrahamses run a 70-member CSA off a 1.5-acre plot of land in Greendale where they live with their two children, nine-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Jacob.
"We've seen a real hunger for local food during these last few years," Cara says. "People care about how their food is grown and what impact that has on the Earth and its inhabitants. They also love vegetables that taste like they are supposed to. I've had people say, 'I don't like beets, but I like yours!'"
Abundant Acres is one of only a handful of CSAs in Chilliwack. The CSA concept isn't new, but, ironically, is relatively uncommon in the heart of growing country in Chilliwack.
CSAs are a partnership between consumers and farmers. Those who join pay the farm in advance—for example, $400 in the spring for 20 weeks at $20—and get a box full of fresh vegetables delivered or available for pick up at the farm each week.
The Abrahamses have been full-time vegetable farming since 2010, and running their CSA out ofGreendale since 2012.
Then there are Aaron and Noella Oss, who run Ossome Acres in Rosedale on a 40-acre farm that has been in the family for five generations.
The couple were growing food as a secondary income before Aaron was laid off from his full-time job as a welder in May 2011. So that spring they planted more, started selling at farmers' markets and then launched a CSA program in 2012.
"We enjoy providing people with healthy vegetables," Aaron says. "We get to know a lot of people. It's community building."
Another CSA program in Chilliwack was run for three years by Nevin and Shauna Gavigan out of the Yarrow Eco-Village. The Gavigans have moved on, but this year two farms at the eco-village have teamed up. Ripple Creek Organic Farm and the Farmacy are running a 20-member CSA over 16 weeks.
Chris Kay at Ripple Creek says they promise the freshest, highest quality vegetables they can.
"We really appreciate the CSA model and the benefits it provides to both farmers and customers," Kay said.
Back over at Abundant Acres, the Abrahamses are shifting into spring harvest season and the CSA boxes are coming soon.
It's hard work, but all the farmers offering CSAs in Chilliwack provide a product that is hard to match for freshness even at farmers' markets.
All the local CSAs are relatively new and run by young farmers who are excited by the concept.
"Figuring out how to farm like this is not simple and I think it's a good thing that we both tend to be quite optimistic," Cara says. "Farming is definitely an adventure and a profession in which you only get to implement lessons you learn the next season, in most cases."
• For more on Abundant Acres, visit www.abundantacre.com
• For more on Ossome Acres, visit www.ossomeacres.com
• For more on the CSAs at the Yarrow Eco-Village, email firstname.lastname@example.org.