Development can often benefit communities at the expense of agriculture; many of Utah’s farms are quickly being replaced by expanding residential, commercial and industrial development. Now many farmers and consumers have joined forces to increase the sustainability of agriculture in Utah with community supported agriculture, especially along the Wasatch Front. Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a way for consumers to directly invest in local farms and receive a regular delivery of fresh fruits, vegetables and other local products.
CSA Utah, a program of the Great Salt Lake RC&D Council, helps build the capacity of local CSA farms in Utah by providing marketing and cost-share opportunities to growers and educating consumers about positive steps they can take to embrace agriculture in their communities. Jill and David Bell of Bell Organic Garden have enjoyed connecting with local customers through CSA and providing local fresh fruits and vegetables they grow on their land, Draper Farm.
The Bells also provide a variety of additional food items from nearby Utah farms including beef, eggs, honey and cheese. They are participants in the NRCS High Tunnel Pilot Program in Utah, which has allowed them to increase the length of their growing season. Now, in addition to their traditional longer summer shares, the Bells are able to offer CSA shares for both their winter and spring crops, providing them with a steadier source of income and nearby residents with fresh produce for nearly twice as long.
Dustin Buckthal, a shareholder in the Bell Organic CSA, enjoys the community aspect of the weekly deliveries and has regular dinners with friends to enjoy the seasonal variety and occasional surprises from the farm. He feels connected to his food and those who grow it, and likes knowing that his produce is produced close by, with fewer transportation costs and environmental impacts. David Palais, another shareholder, also enjoys communicating with the Bells on a regular basis and participating in field events, such as weeding and farm tours.
The Bells were early adopters of social media tools and use the blog on their website to stay in touch with existing and potential customers. In addition, ecommerce tools are embedded in their website so customers can conduct business at any time.
CSA Utah has helped the Bells and over 35 other CSA farms in Utah build their capacity, educate the public about CSA and provide cost share funds for the CSA operation.
Check out more conservation stories on the USDA blog.