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A Canby-area farm is digging into what community supported agriculture can and should be

By merari Calderon Ruiz

Approximately 100 different vegetables grow on a one-acre local farm that's doing some interesting things with its crop.

Dirt Rich Farm is owned by Ryan and Kerry Ramsay and Allison Necheles, their farming partner.

And for the first time, they are focusing on their Community Supported Agriculture in the area, and continuing in Portland for their third season. The CSA is a program in which members can pre-purchase a share of the farm's produce at the beginning of the season. People can go online or call to become a member and it remains open until they are full.

During the season, from May to October, members receive a weekly, hand-picked selection of produce directly from the farm.

"We want our members to be comfortable," said Ryan. "We want people to have things that they know they can work with, but we also kind of want to challenge people a little bit. It's not just tomatoes and carrots, some you can't even find in the grocery store."

Dirt Rich Farms has dialed in to community supported agriculture.

When choosing what to plant, they keep in mind produce that will grow fast and in a compact area.

Many times, they have variations of one vegetable, which is different than what one normally finds at the grocery store. For instance, they are growing about four different types of garlic, like Czech Broadleaf and Chestnut garlic, because they each have their own flavor of spicy or sweet.

"We're lucky because we're so diverse," said Necheles. "If our broccoli crop dies, it's a bummer because broccoli is my favorite food right now, but it won't destroy the farm because we plant so far out that there's a lot of tricks up our sleeve in case of a crop failure."

Just like any other farm, they have to deal with pests; however, they don't use chemicals. If necessary, they cover the plants to protect them and they conduct crop rotation. Each vegetable variety has its own pest pressure and when it gets rotated, it won't get the build-up of that pest.

At Dirt Rich Farm, they take prepping their soil very seriously as well as the quality of seeds they use in planting. A lot of their seeds are local, from Oregon and Washington, because it is beneficial for the seeds to grow, be produced and used in the same climate.

This year, they are teaming up with Jenna Bee, a food blogger and nutritionist, who will provide weekly information that will include ideas on how to use the vegetables, as well as fun facts about uncommon produce.

Scott Shurtleff moved to Portland last year and he said that back in Connecticut, he was a part of the CSA and they would provide recipe cards at the pick-up location, so that would help him prepare some of the produce he received.

Shurtleff said he was thrilled with the variety of veggies he got last year from Dirt Rich Farm. He remembered getting kohlrabi one time, and having never dealt with that vegetable in the past, he enjoyed the challenge.

"To me, it really goes beyond the vegetables," said Shurtleff. "Allison and Ryan are such great spirits, it really creates a great community."

Necheles, Ryan and Kerry Ramsay are always looking for ways to improve. One of the things they heard from their CSA members, last year, is that they wanted to see more fruit options.

"Fruits are generally perennial plants, trees and berry bushes, which doesn't really fit in our model," said Ryan. "We don't have the space to really dedicate for that."

However, they were able to successfully add strawberries and melons to the farm this season. Many people are still learning about the CSA, but it is starting to become more popular.

To find out more, check the website at www.dirtrichoregon.com.

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