Farmers with the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative spend hours together every week assembling food boxes for 160 customers who have joined their in-town delivery program.
The farming families and friends meet at a central location in the Applegate Valley on Thursdays to mix an array of colorful, flavorful produce into boxes.
Unlike typical CSAs — in which members of a Community Supported Agriculture program pay for the goods in advance to give one farmer seed money — SSC is a consortium of nine local farms that make up the Rogue Valley's largest collective CSA.
Because of their diversity of land, the farmers can specialize in certain vegetables, which is a boon for them and their members.
"We all sit down in January and go through the crop list and decide who's growing what," explains Ryan Dolan of L&R Family Farm in Applegate, where the boxes are assembled.
"It's nice to highlight each farm," adds Melissa Matthewson of Barking Moon Farm, also in Applegate. "One grower might have a crop failure and another grower can fill in, so there's a lot of space for managing risk."
The other participating farms are Dancing Bear Farm, Seven Seeds Farm, Sun Spirit Farm and White Oak Farm, all in Williams, as well as Earth and Sky Family Farm, Wandering Fields and Wolf Gulch Farm, all in Little Applegate.
Members benefit from the varieties of organic fruits and veggies delivered to them each week from June through October.
"People are excited by the stuff that shows up in the box that they would never buy," such as turnips and rhubarb, says Dolan, "and (are) excited about cooking it. (It's) like they're getting a little bit of a new flavor." Recipe cards are included in the boxes.
At members' request, SSC can also include locally made bread, cheese, meat or eggs for an additional cost. "All of a sudden, you get this box with your whole diet," says Matthewson.
Members select from quantities that best accommodate their household. A large share is $700; small share is $500; mini share is $300. Members can extend the season into November with a small, four-week post-season share for $100.
SSC delivers to 12 locations. See http://csa.farmigo.com/join/siskiyousustainablecoop/2012season for delivery days and times.
With about nine years of SSC experience under their belt, Dolan believes that, through customer support, the farmers' personal as well as collaborative farming efforts have improved over the years.
"There was growing up in terms of size and then there was growing up in terms of ability, management, production and quality," he says. "We're really growing up on every level."
Find it: To sign up for the Siskiyou Sustainable Cooperative CSA, the SSC newsletter or for more information, visit www.siskiyoucoop.com. The first delivery is Thursday, June 14. Members who sign up later will pay a prorated fee.