12.08.2013

Community Supported Agriculture Revisted - 10 Years

2014 marks the 10 year anniversary for Houston's first Community Supported Agriculture Farm: Home Sweet Farm in Brenham.  A time to revisit the work and the communities that we serve.

 

Farmer Jenny, Fall 2013
A lot has changed in the years serving Houston since we began the first CSA Farm in the area.  We have seen the increase of awareness and the financial commitment of our members has literally helped us grow a farm from scratch without having to go to the bank.  It's been the only thing that we have been able to count on these years.  Lets face it, farming is a big gamble, especially in Texas.  Knowing that we have the secured income for a season allows us to farm full-time for our members and has been essential for our family farm to succeed.

Each year we have adjusted our CSA to meet the demand, adding new dropsites and developing a farmers cooperative to increase local food variety for our members.  Supporting over a dozen family farms, we supply fresh produce, pastured chicken and eggs, grass-fed beef, artisan cheese, honey and hand-crafted artisan foods all sustainably raised in the Brazos Valley!  Its been an exciting adventure as we mentor and support others in their farming dream by developing this new market place.

Flooding in 2009
The weather has always been an issue... years of drought, floods, unusual winters, grasshoppers and heatwaves... its amazing that anything can grow in this climate sometimes.  Membership support has helped us develop irrigation, shade houses and greenhouses to modify our growing environment.  We have researched and shared our growing techniques with 100s of people throughout the years as we strive to rebuild our agricultural community.

Over the last two years, the local food economy has slowed down for us and many small farmers in Texas.  After growing every year, by 2013 our Houston CSA Membership dropped by 50%.  This definitely makes us reevaluate the program.  With the drop in CSA member commitment and the weaker economy, we need to scale back what we are doing by focusing on a smaller supportive membership base.

In 2014, we will be consolidating routes and limiting our CSA Membership to full share members.  We have decided to not offer 1/2 shares at this time as it is essential for our farm to prioritize full share members  in order to make the CSA work financially.  Our 2014 CSA Members will have the option for more local food variety and provisions delivered each week with their vegetables.  Our goal is not to serve more people as we have in the past, our vision is to serve a core group of members more food with better service then ever before.

Horse Farming in 2008
As farmers, we have also set a goal to do more horse farming this year, becoming even more sustainable in our farming practices. We plan to utilize our high tunnels for specialty crops to extend the season and return to more heirloom varieties of vegetables chosen for their nutrition and flavor.  Ultimately, we need to have the farm more financially stable to get us through these economic hard times even if it limits our production by horse farming.

We also want to complete our commercial kitchen on the farm which will allow us to capture any loss of produce by canning, pickling and eventually offering prepared meals and a soup share to our members.

Like always, all of our goals for the farm and work is made possible by our CSA Members!  Its amazing that our family has been able to pursue this dream to be a successful small family farm.  Its an unusual story and an inspiration to many who want to go down the same path making fresh, clean, righteous food available to our community.  We can't express enough our gratitude for the constant encouragement that our members bring to us each season.  It makes it all worth it, and we thank you all for your continued support.

Yours in the local harvest!
Farmer Brad and Jenny


2 comments:

Paula Carper said...

Our family appreciates the vision and commitment of your family and of all of our local farmers. Your commitment to adjust to the daily and often moment by moment changes of the agrarian life is critical to rebuilding our local community economically, socially, politically and healthfully. You have our continued support and prayers that 2014 will be a year of abundance in the local harvest of righteous produce and community support. May you continue to inspire us to share in this vision!

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