CSA Farm Spotlight: Wilkinson Acres

By Sustainable Solano

This is an ongoing series profiling local farms that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy a share of the harvest directly from local farmers. Customers pay a set amount and receive a box of seasonal produce or other farm products in return. Such arrangements help farmers receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local produce and promote health, community and the local economy.

Mike and Courtney Wilkinson of Wilkinson Acres

Mike and Courtney Wilkinson started thinking about their future together after they were married — and what they really wanted to do with their lives.

“After a lot of discussion, we decided what we wanted more than anything was a lifestyle — one in which we could provide good, healthy food for our community while enjoying the freedoms (and responsibilities) of owning our own small business,” Courtney said.

The two left their jobs as a building engineer and high school teacher and started Wilkinson Acres in Fairfield about a year ago, where they use low-till and organic practices to grow vegetables and fruit for their customers, which include restaurants, weekly visitors to their farm stand and, starting in January, CSA members.

Below is a Q&A with Courtney about Wilkinson Acres:

  • Wilkinson Acres
  • Fairfield
  • 5 acres
  • 2019

 

When did you start offering a CSA? Why was it important to offer?

Our first ever CSA starts in January 2021! 2020 was a crazy year of pivoting due to COVID-19. The closure of many of our restaurant accounts required a shift in our business model towards our direct community. We realized that now more than ever it’s important for us to make healthy, organic food accessible to our immediate neighborhood and county. The CSA model allows our community to give us a boost at the beginning of the season, ensuring we can provide them with the best of our product for the 16-week season!

Are there special perks for CSA members? Why do people tend to subscribe?

There are definitely perks to being a member! For starters, all members get an extra 10% off at the farm stand (on-site), as well as a weekly Member Newsletter, featuring recipe ideas for the week’s produce. We’re working on more perks, in conjunction with some of our farm stand partner vendors. Stay tuned!

What’s something that makes your farm stand out?

Our organic certification. We’re certified organic by CCOF and, as far as we can tell, we are the only officially certified organic farm in the Fairfield/Suisun Valley area. We take a tremendous amount of pride in our organic transparency and the quality of our certified organic product. We are looking to implement even more organic and sustainable practices around the farm in the years to come.

We use low-till growing practices to build soil health, which, in turn, grows better produce. Encouraging all the good bugs and bacteria to live in our soil by not tilling up their ecosystem and by adding in organic compost benefits the farmer and the plants. These beneficials, as we call them, help the plants take in and process nutrients, resulting in healthier, tastier food. Low-till farming is environmentally friendly, sustainable, and low-waste. It may not be the easiest way to farm, but we believe sustainable growing practices create better farms, food and families.

Anything exciting on the horizon? What do you see happening and what do you want to see happen with interest in local food?

The opening of our first CSA! We’re focusing hard on making the CSA kickoff in January an exceptional customer experience. Check out our website (WilkinsonAcres.com) for all the details.

With regards to interest in local food — we’d love to see more! We’ve had the great fortune to start creating relationships with a lot of passionate foodies in Solano County, but we know there are so many more people in our county that can and should benefit from the fantastic variety in the local ag and hospitality industries.

Anything else you’d like to add?

A big huge thank you to all of our customers! It’s been a wild couple of years for all of us and we know we would not be here without them. We are so deeply grateful for the welcome we’ve received from the agricultural community in Solano County. If you haven’t visited us yet, come see us every Saturday, 8 am-noon at the farm stand [winter hours: 10 am-2 pm]. We’re looking forward to meeting you!

Wilkinson Acres has its Solano County CSA drop site at the farm. Learn more about how to sign up here.

Find out more about local CSAs here.

CSA Farm Spotlight: Soul Food Farm

By Sustainable Solano

This is an ongoing series profiling local farms that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy a share of the harvest directly from local farmers. Customers pay a set amount and receive a box of seasonal produce or other farm products in return. Such arrangements help farmers receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local produce and promote health, community and the local economy.

Eggs from Soul Food Farm

Soul Food Farm, off of Pleasants Valley Road in Vacaville, sits on land that was a family farm since 1850 and had lain fallow for 30 years before Eric and Alexis Koefoed bought it in 1997. They officially named it Soul Food Farm in 2000. Known for its pastured eggs and olive oil, the farm started by selling eggs to the community and then to restaurants. “It all happened so fast we didn’t have time to write a business plan, but the mission was always to grow clean, fresh, real food that people could afford,” Alexis said.

There is a farm stand at the front of the property and the farm is often host to workshops and events, including the annual Women of Abundance conference. When COVID-19 upended the way local farmers were distributing their products, the Koefoeds took the steps necessary to start selling products from a variety of farmers directly to consumers through the Soul Food Farm CSA.

Below is a Q&A with Alexis about Soul Food Farm:

 

  • Soul Food Farm
  • Vacaville
  • 55 acres
  • Established 2000

 

When did you start offering a CSA? Why was it important to offer?

In this current pandemic and shelter in place, the closure of small businesses, restaurants and markets has had a huge impact on farmers, ranchers and food producers (chefs) and the ability for people to access nutrient-dense food. It seemed imperative to pivot and to build a CSA that farmers could come together on and sell their food — a way to connect farmers to customers and get good food out into the community.

Are there special perks for CSA members? Why do people tend to subscribe?

We have set it up a little differently than traditional CSAs. It is still operated on the premise of Community Supported Agriculture, but there is no membership fee. I wanted the flexibility for people to join with ease, and also it wasn’t practical to have a membership fee with so many items from different farms on the site. This way, they can purchase just what they want and the system I’ve designed handles all the orders and inventory. That being said, I may change it in the future. The story is still unfolding.

What’s something that makes your farm stand out?

I don’t know if Soul Food Farm stands out as different from any other small farm, but the guiding principles of the farm have always been simple: That the farm should embody beauty, form and function. That simple was best. Our strength was in staying small and diverse. There have been times over the years when we drifted from those core principles and beliefs, but we always found our way back. And there would never have been a Soul Food Farm if it wasn’t for the customers and farm friends who have been part of our story.

Anything exciting on the horizon? What do you see happening and what do you want to see happen with interest in local food?

I think this upending of our economy in many ways is a reason to feel some excitement. We are watching people come together and exhibit great acts of kindness. It’s a painful adjustment, of course, but it’s forcing us all to be creative and inspired about how we view our businesses. We have the possibility now to create a new system of food equity:

  • A sound regional food system that includes access, transportation, a closer connection between farmers and consumers.
  • The understanding that food is our common denominator and is not a commodity but a human right.
  • The uplifting of small and regional food production as opposed to large, clumsy and cruel.
  • Farmers in each region supporting food security in a more profound way and the community responding with financial support.

The world is changing and it could be a wonderful moment to create truly regenerative systems. The old way of corporations controlling our food supply is no longer feasible. The fractures of that big ag system have been revealed. The smaller farmers and their advocates are picking up the work of feeding people, building new supply chains and working out how to alleviate food insecurity with an intensity like never before.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Soul Food Farm CSA is adding new farmers, ranchers and small business owners each week to our list. We are going to keep operating the CSA as long as needed to help bring farmers and customers together.

The Soul Food Farm CSA is available for pickup at the farm on Saturdays. Orders go live Saturdays at 10 am and close Wednesdays at 5 pm. Learn more here.

Find out more about local CSAs here.

Local Food Reflections from the Sustainable Solano Team

By Sustainable Solano

Building awareness of the benefits of buying local food and building a local food system that supports our farmers and food producers is a key part of the work we do at Sustainable Solano. We have seen the interest in buying directly from producers explode in recent weeks as the pandemic affects supply lines and people are seeking a reliable source of food that reduces their dependence on the grocery store and food shipped across state and international lines. In talking about this growing interest, our team started sharing how we buy locally, which supports the local economy even as we benefit from having a closer relationship with the people behind our food. We wanted to share that with you, our community. None of us does it perfectly, but we support local food in a way that works for each of us.

A beautiful selection of CSA contents

Elena Karoulina

Executive Director

I am so grateful to our local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and producers for keeping my family well-fed and healthy. Since we started the “What’s for Dinner?” educational program in Benicia in 2012, our family food supply has been shifting toward truly local. Today, we source more than 80% of our family food from local sources. Our produce comes from Terra Firma Farm in Yolo County. Over the years, we got to know the farmers, visited the farm a few times and developed a wonderful annual rhythm of seasonal bounty: spring comes with sugar peas, asparagus and strawberries, summer is at its best with juicy tomatoes and corn, and later in the season — colorful watermelons (a favorite summer game for my children is to guess a color of our weekly watermelon — red or yellow); we slowly shift toward persimmons and squashes in the fall, and winter announces itself with endless greens and citruses. We are nourished by this seasonal rhythm and never crave an out-of-season item!

To our great surprise, we learned that our fish/seafood and meat supplies are seasonal too. All our fish comes from Real Good Fish, a collective of local fishermen. Every week we know the name of the captain who caught our fish (and the name of the boat!), the method that was used (only sustainable) and the place it was caught. Our meat and eggs come from Tara Firma Farms in Petaluma. Being a strong believer in regenerative agriculture, I am so happy to source from the ranchers who do it right. They are “the grass farmers”! Cows are roaming freely on the green hills, improving the health of the soil and nourishing us.

Our olive oil comes from Sepay Oil Company and occasionally from Soul Food Farm (we are thrilled they re-opened their CSA — their eggs were once named “The Best Eggs of the Bay Area” by San Francisco magazine). You have to try them! If I have a chance, I buy Central Milling flour, and I’m so grateful The Barn & Pantry in Dixon carries it. I pick up a bag every time I am in Dixon! Our family is not big on jams, but if we want some, Lockwood Acres in Vacaville or Cloverleaf in Dixon are our go-to suppliers. Our dairy and other random items comes from a local grocery store. We grow herbs, strawberries (you can never have enough!) and blueberries in our tiny home garden.

Ben Lyons of Lockewood Acres

Gabriela Estrada

Listening Circles and Solano Gardens Program Manager

Allison and I have been sharing a CSA box from Eatwell Farm for a while now. This arrangement has been great because we get a couple more items in our box. Sharing the box has been amazing since I’ve gotten to try vegetables that I would have never thought to buy in the store like broccoflower, turnips, fennel, green garlic, among others. This has led to Allison often sharing recipes with me, and giving me insight on how to cook some of the items I haven’t tried. Some I’ve loved like turnips, while some I’ve yet to find the right recipe for, such as fennel. In addition to this, I’ve also planted a few seeds in my garden including corn, cucumbers, watermelons, green beans and tomato starts in my backyard, and am in the process of researching plants that would benefit a small orange tree, in order to make my first tree guild. The current times are not ideal, but having the privilege to have a backyard to plant on and a CSA buddy that I can share the cost of a box with (and who guides me with cooking tips) has been a definite plus that keeps me well-balanced!

Another thing that I tend to source locally is honey from The Lazy Barn in Fairfield. While I do this to try to alleviate really bad spring allergies, I often indulge and put in on my teas and sweet treats too. Along with the honey, I also sometimes source raw milk from them (though I don’t do this as often, since I don’t consume a lot of milk products) as there are certain very traditional Mexican dishes where store-bought milk just won’t do. All in all, it’s been a real pleasure (and a tasty one) to support local businesses that do their best to provide the people of Solano County with local food options!

 

Packing up the CSA boxes at Terra Firma Farm

Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan

Chef and Local Food Program Manager

My relationship with local food goes way back to my childhood in Nebraska, when I watched my grandfather pull endless produce from his backyard garden and pass it on to my grandmother who preserved and canned a lot of it. They were young parents during the Great Depression and had more mouths to feed during World War II; having a cellar full of home-canned goods was a necessity and my grandmother carried on with this practice well into the 1980s and ’90s. Fast forward 40-odd years and here I am: a trained chef raising my own children, trying to teach them where food comes from, how to prepare it, and now — in the current COVID-19 pandemic — how we waste as little as possible, be resourceful with ingredients we have on hand and be patient while waiting for the next grocery order or CSA pickup.

When I was in culinary school in Chicago in 2003, the local food scene was just gaining momentum — farmers markets were popping up in various neighborhoods and fellow chefs were talking about sourcing locally and naming partner farms on their menus. Shortly after moving to California in 2011, I was pleasantly shocked at how the “growing season” never really ends (unlike the Midwest!), and I began looking for how to grow and source local organic food. I signed up for a community garden bed in Benicia and had raised beds installed in our backyard. Needless to say, right now I’m very thankful to be living near rural areas where there are several Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms. Around 2012, I subscribed to Terra Firma Farm’s CSA and then joined Tara Firma Farms, Real Good Fish and Eatwell Farm. While I certainly appreciated all this super-fresh food and the farmers who grow it (my dad was a farmer, too), I didn’t fully grasp all the benefits and potential of local food (economic, social, etc.) until becoming involved with Sustainable Solano in 2016. Today, as Sustainable Solano’s Local Food program manager, I’ve delved into the problems and issues behind our current food system, and have been envisioning what a functioning and resilient local food system looks like. While our world is changing every day right now — and there are experts out there who have studied food systems far longer than I have — I can’t help but think that the answer may be similar to what my grandparents had. Meanwhile, special thanks and appreciation to our farmers and gardeners!

Packing coolers at Real Good Fish

Kassie Munro

Resilient Neighborhoods Program Manager and Farm Coordinator

I have always enjoyed gardening — a word that, to me, conveys an activity more than a product. I love my vegetable gardens, and cooking for loved ones with homegrown ingredients has always been a great joy that I feel grateful to have the luxury of doing. While I have a small yard in a residential neighborhood I know that I am very fortunate to have the space, time and capacity to grow some of my own food, which this year includes eggs with the welcome addition of our three new chickens (Frankie, Charlie and Harry). But it has always felt like that — a luxury, a hobby, a pastime. Self-sufficiency and an understanding of where food comes from is a part of my love for gardening, but I never felt like that was a skill I would need to rely on in my lifetime, until the past few weeks. I am blown away every season by the incredible amount of food that can be grown in a single backyard and even with the meager crops I still have growing at this transitional time in the season, I have been able to harvest a steady amount of fresh, safe, and nutritious greens and eggs for my family and friends. Not only does this help us limit our exposure to shopping in public, sharing my food restores a sense of connection to people I love that I am unable to be with right now. The hours I spend tending, harvesting, washing and packing is perhaps more nourishing for my spirit than the food itself, and while I am preparing now for the next season planting I have a new perspective on the value and importance of what I am doing in my garden.

The backyard chicken crew

Nicole Newell

Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

During this pandemic I realize the importance of the permaculture principle of redundancy. For every basic need we have, it is important to find multiple ways of meeting that need. So basically we aren’t dependent on one source. I would be feeling more vulnerable now if I was getting my food only from the grocery store.

In April 2019 I made a commitment to purchase a CSA box from Eatwell Farm. Every other week I pick up my fruit/veggie box and half-dozen eggs at the CSA drop-off site in Benicia. At first I was uncomfortable with the transition as I enjoy going to the farmers market to personally pick out produce to make recipes that I feel inspired to make.  The CSA box produce is organic and mostly beautiful. Occasionally veggies come and lets just say, they aren’t the ones I would have selected at the market; either it is a veggie that I don’t like or the quality isn’t “perfect.”  Now I totally embrace the box and my meals are created around what I am growing in my yard and what is in the box. I am learning new recipes and beginning to eat spaghetti squash. Today I am grateful that I have an established relationship with Eatwell Farm and I am now aware of all the challenges that farms have to deal with like unseasonably hot weather that makes the cauliflower begin to flower earlier than expected. Local farms also need a commitment from us. They are planting for the amount of people that are signed up for the CSAs and they rely on that financial commitment.

Making the decision in my life to source ethically and locally when funds allow has provided me the opportunity to build relationships with farmers and others in the community that I care about and want to support. A healthy interdependence has emerged and without realizing it — I have redundancy in many of my sources of food:

  • Eatwell CSA box
  • Eggs from 3 chickens in my yard
  • Growing fruits & veggies
  • Relationships with plant nurseries
  • Seed saver
  • Provisions (this restaurant is providing not only pick-up food, but they are selling flour, eggs and even paper products)
  • I get homemade cheese from a friend
  • Sharing with neighbors
An Eatwell CSA box

Allison Nagel

Workforce Development and Communications Manager

I love buying local food. Yes, in my family we still make grocery runs for staples that we aren’t able to source locally, but more and more there are local options for many of the things we need. And you find that the more you buy locally, whether from a family-owned farm or at a restaurant or retail store that sources from local farmers and producers, the more familiar you become with what is available. Every other week, I split a CSA box with Gabriela, creating an opportunity for us both to divvy up what’s available in a way that works for us. I also tend to add on to the box pretty frequently, so that in addition to the produce that was just growing in the field days ago, I’m also able to get dried beans, sauerkraut, miso and even artisan salts. On the other weeks, my family receives a different CSA. These basically replace a large amount of our grocery shopping, for which I’m so grateful (and the produce is fresher, lasts longer and tastes better). It also means sharing in the harvest, whether a bad or good year, with the farmer — getting to know the farmer and the farm through weekly newsletters and social media posts, having the opportunity for farm visits and truly connecting more with your food. I don’t eat meat, but my husband does and has been more mindful of where he’s buying from, which has led to us purchasing meat from a local farm that operates in humane, regenerative ways. This mindset of buying local has influenced our restaurant purchases as well. We now try to ask where the restaurant sources from and appreciate and support those who are working to support our local farms in various ways. I’m a very haphazard gardener, so while I love the idea of growing my own food, and we have various herbs, edible perennials and annual veggies that we try to grow, I also could never rely on my semi-green thumb to feed my family. That’s why I feel so lucky to live near farms where there is a true passion for healthy, sustainably grown food, and that I can be a part of supporting the network that supports those farmers.

CSA Farm Spotlight: Be Love Farm

By Sustainable Solano

This is an ongoing series profiling local farms that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy a share of the harvest directly from local farmers. Customers pay a set amount and receive a box of seasonal produce or other farm products in return. Such arrangements help farmers receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local produce and promote health, community and the local economy.

Emma Dotta in the fields at Be Love Farm, where she lives and works

Matthew and Terces Engelhart started Be Love Farm more than a decade ago with a dedication to regenerative farming. The family-owned farm is supported by plants and animals working together to grow healthy food in a way that emulates natural systems. Fields that produce annuals one year are then returned to perennial grasses for cows and chickens for at least two years.

Terces said she and Matthew started the farm to provide food for the restaurants they own and themselves, but also to nurture young upcoming farmers and provide a space where their grandchildren could roam freely and learn about food and animals.

The farm produces fruit, vegetables and nuts and a variety of other goods, including wine. Be Love Farm has a farm stand on-site for everything from nuts and produce to pizza, sauces and other value-add products and is now introducing a CSA for pickup at the farm. Packed in baskets, the CSA could include seasonal produce, eggs, olive oil, wine, nuts and bread.

Below is a Q&A with Terces about Be Love Farm:

 

  • Be Love Farm
  • Vacaville
  • 21 acres
  • Established 2008

 

When did you start offering a CSA? Why was it important to offer?

This is our first CSA offering. We want to make food available for our local community.

What’s something that makes your farm stand out?

I suppose the diversification. We do everything from wine to nuts and sourdough.

Anything exciting on the horizon? What do you see happening and what do you want to see happen with interest in local food?

We love sharing our farm and what it produces with others. It has been a 12-year project of love to develop our small family farm. Eating local and fresh food is one of the healthiest choices a person can make.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Contact belovefarm@gmail.com for additional information.

Be Love Farm has the CSA available for pickup at the farm. Learn more about signing up through contacting them at belovefarm@gmail.com

Find out more about local CSAs here.

CSA Spotlight: Real Good Fish

By Sustainable Solano

This is an ongoing series profiling local businesses that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy directly from local producers. Such arrangements help producers, in this case fishermen, receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local food and promote health, community and the local economy.

Fisherman Khevin Mellegers is one of the local fishermen that works with Real Good Fish

Real Good Fish started as Local Catch Monterey in 2012 with the mission of bringing locally and sustainably sourced seafood to Central California. The company, which started working mostly out of a single van, now delivers to more than 1,600 individuals and families every week, according to Emily Hess of Member Services. The company supports local fishermen who use sustainable catch methods and created the Bay2Tray program to increase awareness and demand for sustainably caught seafood with public school districts, providing local fish for school lunches and fishermen in the classroom visits.

“[We] have grown our mission to not only support local fishermen, but teach the public about the importance of seafood transparency and healthy fishing stocks,” she said.

Below is a Q&A with Emily about Real Good Fish:

  • Real Good Fish
  • Moss Landing
  • Fish from the California Coast
  • Established 2012

When did you start offering a CSA? Why was it important to offer?

We started delivering fish in 2012. Making fresh seafood from local fishermen easily accessible is not only good for the community, but for the planet as a whole as we drive seafood demand away from international imports and combat the challenges of mislabeled seafood and mismanaged fisheries.

Are there special perks for CSA members? Why do people tend to subscribe?

Getting local seafood delivered to your neighborhood is a great perk! With each share that our members receive, they are also getting the fishermen info for exactly where their fish is coming from, as well as recipes and cooking suggestions for that day’s delivery. As a member, they also get to participate in our special sales where we offer not only a greater variety of seafood, but our house-made value-added products such as smoked salmon burgers, dungeness crab ravioli, and much more. People tend to subscribe for the convenience and the quality of fish they receive. Real Good Fish cuts out several middle men that are usually involved in the sea-to-table process with fish from a grocery store. We buy the fish directly off the boat, process it ourselves, and deliver it at peak freshness, giving our members access to the freshest fish around.

What’s something that makes your business stand out?

Along with sourcing from and supporting local fishermen, we also work with our local school districts to get sustainable local seafood onto school lunch menus. We utilize some of the species that are commonly discarded as bycatch, and teach cafeteria staff how to properly store and prepare it to make healthy lunch alternatives, like fish tacos, that are within the school’s budget. This Bay2Tray program also arranges classroom visits with the fishermen we work with to teach kids about the local fishing industry and why it is important to be in touch with your resources and know where your food comes from. We try to extend our local sustainability model to as many aspects of the community as we can!

Anything exciting on the horizon? What do you see happening and what do you want to see happen with interest in local food?

We are always looking for new ways to expand and incorporate other local food programs into our subscriptions! We have recently been working with local farms like Marin Sun Farm, Fogline Farm and Wayne’s Fine Swine to bring our members other sources of local protein, like beef, pork and chicken. All of these other farms are using pasture-raised and organic practices to raise healthy, happy animals to provide the finest meats to their local customer base. We are hoping to expand our range to bring more customers the amazingly high-quality fish and message we provide, and would love to incorporate some of these other proteins into our subscriptions on a more regular basis.

Real Good Fish has Solano County CSA drop sites in Benicia and Fairfield. Learn more about how to sign up here.

Find out more about local CSAs here.

CSA Farm Spotlight: Eatwell Farm

By Sustainable Solano

This is an ongoing series profiling local farms that have Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) available in Solano County. CSAs create a way for community members to buy a share of the harvest directly from local farmers. Customers pay a set amount and receive a box of seasonal produce or other farm products in return. Such arrangements help farmers receive a greater share of the money paid, bring customers fresh, local produce and promote health, community and the local economy.

Andrew, Lorraine and Cameron of Eatwell Farm

Eatwell Farm in Dixon was started by the late Nigel Walker, a leading figure in the Bay Area organic food movement. (Here’s a talk Nigel gave on the importance of healthy soil and why it is important to the work done at Eatwell Farm.) The organic farm grows hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables to ensure a year-round, diverse supply of produce.

Nigel left a career as a radio engineer with the BBC World Service when he was 21 to go to horticultural college. He then farmed for a few years in England before moving to California.

He “started farming because of true calling and passion,” said Lorraine Walker, who met Nigel in 2005 while working for an aromatheraphy-based skin care company that used some of his extracts in its products. The two began dating in 2007 and married in 2011.

Nigel was diagnosed with cancer in late 2011 and died in 2017. Lorraine has continued to channel his passion and move forward their vision for the farm.

“I am not a farmer, but I have committed my life to this farm, but more importantly to our CSA community,” Lorraine said.

Below is a Q&A with Lorraine about Eatwell Farm:

 

  • Eatwell Farm
  • Dixon
  • 105 acres
  • Established 1997

 

When did you start offering a CSA? Why was it important to offer?

Nigel chose the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model specifically because of the community aspect. It is what drives what we do. Putting our members first, rather than wholesale, means we commit to growing to serve their needs. When Eatwell first began over 25 years ago, our outlets were at farmers markets. We are one of the founding farms at Cuesa’s Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and we have always been proud of our record of never having missed a market in all those years. After a couple of seasons, and meeting many great customers who were looking for a committed relationship to a farm, Nigel began the CSA with about 45 members. Today we stand at over 800 subscriptions, which means any given week we are feeding close to 2,000 people. That is a lot of lives we touch.

Are there special perks for CSA members? Why do people tend to subscribe?

I find most of our members are looking to support farms and wanting fresh produce. Some come to us with an understanding of how that direct connection can impact their lives, like learning to eat seasonally, or even better, having a farm to bring their kids to. We open the farm many times throughout the year to host members here for special events like U-pick Strawberry Days, Tomato Canning parties, and our last event was a day of harvesting olives with a pizza lunch. All of our events are private for members and their guests. Several years ago we tried opening them to the public, but we quickly learned that really altered the community/family feeling which our members had come to love, and is one of the reasons many of them stick with us.

What’s something that makes your farm stand out?

I hope what makes us special is us. My son Cameron, and now my step-son Andrew, who recently joined us as our CSA manager, make ourselves very available to all of our members. I write to all of our new members personally to say hello, give them my direct email and phone number to have in case they ever get stuck with ideas on how to use some of the produce, or just talk about the farm. I want all of our members to know that we are here, to help them out and feel like they are welcome to this special place.

Anything exciting on the horizon? What do you see happening and what do you want to see happen with interest in local food?

Learning more about farming, improving what we do, growing our community. More than ever, I think it is critical that we educate people to the importance of supporting their local farms. We are a rapidly disappearing breed, and all of us need much more than a quick pop into the farmers market and a few nice comments on the how good our produce looks. Farmers need the support of the local consumers, not just Eatwell, but all of us — Terra Firma out of Winters, Lockwood Acres in Vacaville are two super local farms who also offer CSA options.

Anything else you’d like to add?

The more we can share with folks the benefit of eating locally/seasonally, the easier it will become for them to make it their way of life. Saying no to New Zealand strawberries in February, and stone fruit from Chile in January, tomatoes year-round from Mexico to wait for them to come in locally means you get to experience them at their best. In some ways we should make many foods special again, something to look forward to, not to have 365 days of the year when most of that time what you pay for is just so inferior. Enjoying those fruits when they are at the peak of their, or rather, our season, also means we are cutting down an enormous carbon footprint with the benefit of supporting local farms and a local economy.

Eatwell Farm has Solano County CSA drop sites in Benicia, Dixon, Fairfield, Vacaville and Vallejo. Learn more about how to sign up here.

Find out more about local CSAs here.