Locals sign up for sustainably grown produce


Last updated 3/19/2024 at 3:34pm

font size="1">Photo by T. Lee Brown

As spring harvest approaches, Cora Kirby (left) and her mother Elizabeth discuss their favorite vegetables from Seed to Table farm.

Elizabeth Kirby and her daughter Cora sat in a coffeehouse on a sunny day this week, coloring pictures and talking about veggies. Which were their favorites from Seed to Table farm in recent years?

Mom remembered "green kale and purplish-red kale. We made kale chips out of them." 

Cucumbers with rice vinegar were the winner for Cora, a four-year-old who recently started attending SPRD preschool. 

"I think she likes those because when I was pregnant with her, I ate tons of pickles," explained Kirby. "She likes pickled beets, too, and pickled radishes."

"And pickled coffee," added Cora. 

Seed to Table isn't known for pickled coffee. It is known, however, for its produce share, providing local, sustainably grown veggies to folks in Sisters Country. Signups are now available for the 2024 season.

The produce share is based on the Community Supported Agriculture model, also known as a CSA. As in many produce shares, customers pay for a full season of fresh vegetables. Seed to Table's approach to payment is unusual, though.

On a sliding scale, people pay what best fits their income and situation. SNAP/EBT and other food assistance currencies are accepted and supported.

Some produce share members choose to "pay it forward," buying their share at a higher rate to support Seed to Table's Feeding Families program. The farm currently provides 100,000 pounds of produce to the community annually, according to its website. A full 40% of this fresh bounty is donated free of charge to food pantries, schools, and other partner organizations.

Kirby, who has diabetes, appreciates the taste, cooking, and health benefits of Seed to Table's fresh food. "My overall health feels better in summertime, doing the produce share," she explained. "As a diabetic, having access, knowing I will be picking up vegetables this week-I plan my menus around that."

She enjoyed how her family's produce share led to trying new foods, recipes, and preparation methods during previous seasons. "It kind of pushed me out of my comfort zone to try things that I wouldn't necessarily buy at the grocery store," she said. "Like beets. I'd never been a fan of beets-but when they were available at the farm, Cora was interested. She said, 'I want to try this.'"

Kirby became curious. "How do we cook these?" she wondered. Investigating recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, "I ended up liking them. Now we have a favorite of beet pancakes."

The CSA concept was created in the 1960s by Booker T. Whatley, a Black horticulturist, agricultural professor, and advocate for sustainable farming practices. At Seed to Table, produce share customers typically visit the farm once a week, where they select the vegetables they prefer and chat with neighbors, farmers, and volunteers.

Some customers pick up their produce share at Sisters Farmers Market instead. Seed to Table operates a booth at the market every Sunday in season, in addition to managing the market itself.

Heading out to the farm was a special activity for Kirby's family. "We signed up for the produce share all summer last year. Cora loved it. It was her favorite day of the week," Kirby said.

Her family especially liked the cucumbers, snap peas, and broccoli. "The broccoli that we got at Seed to Table was definitely better than the broccoli we tried to grow at home, right?" she asked Cora. 

Cora nodded. "Yay, yay, yay!" she said.

"Between the produce share and the farmers market-the activities they would have for kids at the market-it became a really fun routine," said Kirby. "If we'd missed our produce share on the farm, we'd just pick up our share at the farmers market."

What was Cora's favorite part? "Eating the food!" she said emphatically. She also loved the peacocks out on the farm; she even dressed as a peacock for Halloween.

Seed to Table Oregon is a nonprofit organization that runs a bustling farm, educates Central Oregon kids, and operates Sisters Farmers Market-feeding some 2,200 people each week in season. A team of local farmers grow the vegetables sustainably, within guidelines of organic practices.

To receive weekly veggies throughout the upcoming spring, summer, and fall harvest seasons, visit seedtotableoregon.org/produce-share-sign-up.


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