Community supported agriculture is a way to get farm-fresh produce while sharing in the benefits and risks of a small farm. Participants pay in advance to buy in-season vegetables available for pickup on a weekly basis.
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SARAH WORLEY
- GROWING BUSINESS : Sarah Worley’s Bee Wench Farm provides vegetables and more to people hungry for fresh food and a connection to the hands that grow it.
Bee Wench Farm is a CSA that just set up shop at a new location east of Paso Robles, specializing in heirloom vegetables, fruits, and herbs that are cultivated varieties and strains that may not typically be available in a chain grocery store. While a large shop might carry one kind of beet, a CSA is able to offer multiple variations because of its flexibility.
Queen bee Sarah Worley, owner of Bee Wench Farms, grows for a diverse group of people “from young ‘foodies’ to busy working families to seniors that can’t grow their own but still want to eat fresh,” she said. When she’s not pulling weeds or instructing her kids on how to round up baby chickens, she’s working at her other job in town. Friends help by coming over to help pull weeds, which reflects the community participation behind a CSA. Part of the attraction to this kind of farming is that subscribers develop a relationship with the person who grows their food.
“That’s really the ultimate idea behind CSA … to know your customers and for them to know their farmer,” Worley said. “I really strive to develop a relationship with all my customers and form lasting relationships.”
Having just moved her four-year-old fruit trees to the new property, Sarah and her family still have to buy most of their fruit. They also buy grains from a co-op and some supplementary items from a local farmers’ market or directly from another farm. Her acre and a half supports about half an acre of growing space, which is enough to grow 20 shares a season, three seasons a year (spring, summer, and fall), plus most of the food Sarah and her family consume. A full share (half-shares are available) includes eight to 10 items a week.
“So, for example, a spring week may have one head of broccoli, one head of cauliflower, a bag of peas, bag of spinach, bunch of carrots, one bunch of beets, one bunch of radishes, one bunch of green onions, one head of lettuce, and one cabbage, and those items vary each week because we grow multiple varieties,” Worley explained.
Bee Wench grows bio-intensively, which is geared toward the maximum yield for a small amount of space. This method is popular for small-scale commercial operations and developing countries, emphasizing sustainable growth and improving land and soil conditions. With online tools, Sarah is able to plan out seeding, transplanting, and harvesting times, along with which crops should follow another in crop rotation. With three dogs, two cats, dairy goats, 25 chickens (for eggs), and two hives of bees, there’s a serious amount of planning that goes into what ends up on the plate for dinner. The farm animals, like the plants, sometimes change seasonally. Each year they have about 10 chickens raised for meat, along with the occasional pigs.
While the fruits and vegetables each have their time to grow, herbs are an evergreen. Crop and animal rotation ensures that the farm works with the seasons. Without the correct crop rotation, the soil could become depleted of nutrients and lead to a stunted harvest—all part of the bio-intense growing method.
This April will mark the second year Bee Wench Farms has been in the Earth Day Food and Wine Festival at Pomar Junction. Worley hopes to take part in the FarmFest in Pismo Beach, which runs Friday, April 26, 4 to 7 p.m.
The FarmFest website notes: “As an attendee at FarmFest, you will experience what it feels like to know exactly where your food comes from, and be able to shake the hand that feeds you.”
Last year, Bee Wench partnered with a local fish CSA. Worley said she might be interested in doing a collaboration with a meat CSA in the future, or maybe a grain and decorative flower CSA.
“Their super fresh produce combined with Sarah’s friendliness made for a great incentive to involve our kids in planning healthy and delicious meals.” said Sandi Williams, a customer of Worley’s.
That’s really what a CSA is about: acting as an educational tool to inform a community about food.
For upcoming events, like the grand opening at Bee Wench Farm on April 6, go to beewenchfarm.com/events. You can also call 423-7187 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Health and Fitness Expo comes to the Alex Madonna Expo Center on March 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Find free admission, seminars, dance performances, and medical testing. There’s also an associated 5k run. For more information, visit slohealthandfitness.com.
Intern Michael Satchell compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business and nonprofit news to email@example.com.