Steamboat growers begin collecting pledges for 2011 crops

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— Outdoor planting season in the upper Yampa Valley is at least three months away, but vegetable growers here and on Colorado’s temperate Front Range are already lining up pledges for the 2011 crop.

Five local and regional small-scale agriculture producers were on hand Tuesday night when the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council hosted an information session about community-supported agriculture.

Lisa Sadler, of Deep Roots ,said CSAs provide stability to small-scale agriculture by ensuring there will be a ready market for its produce and meats in advance. Consumers who sign up with a CSA in spring are committing to buying a share of the farm’s output later in the season.

“A CSA is a way of helping farmers take care of their upfront costs,” Sadler said. “If you pay a share of the money up front, you kind of take a risk along with the farmer.”

Deep Roots encourages food produced close to home under the auspices of the Community Agriculture Alliance.

In some cases, the food offered by CSA producers at this week’s event would be deliverered to customers at the downtown Mainstreet Farmers Market in Steamboat Springs. Others arrange for home delivery at an additional cost. Some local families who own shares in the produce of a Front Range organic producer may take turns making the weekly trip to the farm to pick up fresh vegetables for the entire group.

Chad and Christina Yeager of Firefly Mountain Produce in Clark told the group they would be able to greatly expand the number of CSA customers they can supply this summer thanks to an alliance with longtime grass-fed-beef producer John Weibel of Rockin J Pastures in Moffat County.

Weibel said he has leased his larger acreage in Moffat to another rancher in order to consolidate on the smaller Elk Valley Farms on the northwest side of Elk Mountain. He has ample room for the Yeagers to expand into more varieties of vegetables this summer.

Firefly specializes in growing salad greens, herbs, edible flowers and stir-fry greens and offers a half-share, or half-pound of mixed greens, for $72 for the 12-week season, or $6 a week.

“We want everyone to have easy access to local food because it’s so much better,” Chris­tina Yeager said.

Visit fireflymtnproduce.com to sign up by March 31.

Weibel said he had just agreed to buy 20 Guernsey and brown Swiss dairy cows and intends to build a small dairy herd in addition to feeding yearling steers on the ranch.

Tina Suriano of Fossil Creek Farms outside Fort Collins said the farm specializes in heirloom varieties of vegetables and will bring produce to Steamboat weekly for 14 to 20 weeks beginning as soon as the end of May and continuing into late November, if the weather allows. The farm grows a wide variety of produce, including 126 species of tomatoes, broccoli and basil.

“A full share costs $475 and is enough for a family of four,” Suriano said. “A half-share costs $250.”

Delivery is to the farmers market in season and to the door for an additional $7 a week in the shoulder seasons. Visit www.fossilcreekfarmsllc.com.

Other presenters Tuesday night were Megan Moore for Mon­roe Organic Farms, at www.monroefarm.com; and Greg Smith and Erica Olson of Caprice Farm with heritage turkeys, rabbits and goats outside Milner, goatsintheboat.weebly.com.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or e-mail tross@SteamboatToday.com

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