Our last story examined Feeding Crane Farms’ impact on the Sacramento Farm-to-Fork, locavore and equal access food movements. This time, we want to settle into the dirt and learn more about the farm that aspires to “be Sacramento’s farm.”
Each week, Paul (Chef and Farmers Market Manager) and Ashley (Processing and Distribution Manager) sift through the latest crop creating gorgeous CSA boxes. Once packed, the produce inside lands in customers’ homes within 48 hours. You can’t get much more local than that.
Even though Feeding Crane Farms sits within the city of Sacramento, most folks—even those who support the CSA—have little idea all that goes into filling that box. That’s what led us out to the farm.
A small experimental garden yields bright blooms of golden amaranth, slim green chive, lemon verbena on one section of the property. A quick car ride up the road delivers you onto the non-experimental part of the farm. Rows of green bearing beans, cucumbers, unripe tomatoes line the land. A few blueberry bushes hover in the rear of the property near a canal. Shannin plucks garlic flower petals, which we pop into our mouths, crunch down. Condensed garlic stings, but we imagine it atop a salad.
Up a few rows, Dylan and Kelsey crawl down a tomato row examining the crop. They stand up covered in dirt but seem unaware of it. It’s become part of their uniform. Looking around, it’s tough to imagine how they plan the big picture when it seems there’s often a small disaster. Between rabbits and other rodents chomping down on crops, mother nature rocking a nasty attitude or some integral piece of equipment crashing, the four full-time farm staff are inundated with work. In fact, there is no off-the-cuff planning here; Dylan and Kelsey save planning for winter. They examine the previous year’s experience: what sold well, what grew well, and then they devise a crop plan listing dates to sew or transplant, dates of succession, dates of harvest, and so on. It’s a very detailed process, but this team is good at it.
Dylan, Kelsey, Elena and Fred thrive on the work they do at FCF. There are, however, a few things they think non-farmers should understand. “It’s really tough work,” they agree. They got particularly fired up when we started talking tomatoes. Most folks, they argue, look for shape and color when choosing a tomato, but at FCF they “grow for taste not uniformity.” This points to a greater challenge small organic farms face.
As Kelsey explains, “We are competing with industrial farms and even organic industrial farms.” While uniformity may not seem like a big deal, industrial farms have more money, equipment and technology and can effectively crush small farms like FCF. This is where the CSA comes in. Elena, who heads the CSA component, explains joining the CSA offers “a great opportunity for people to try new vegetables.” Though, Fred admits people can often feel overwhelmed by the amount of new produce they receive. FCF has foreseen this challenge and offers food education about how to store specific veggies and recipes for how to prepare them.
Kelsey adds that the farm also benefits a great deal from the CSA relationship. He argues supporting the CSA is integral to the farm. Every membership helps the farm afford equipment, seeds and other requirements each spring—which is a costly time for farmers. The CSA offers customers local healthy options and in turn customers help fund the farm, so it may continue production the following year. Sounds a bit like the circle of life.
Feeding Crane Farms’ CSA links the customer to the farmer in an intimate and necessary way. Some might eve argue it’s the epitome of community.