Every spring, farmers around Oregon offer up ways to eat local with Community Supported Agriculture shares, booths at farmers markets, produce stands and more.
This year, seemingly more than ever, people are seeking out these local produce options, including in the Portland-metro area.
Ian Brinker of Briarpatch Botanicals in Boring opened his CSA program earlier this year to supply the local demand for fresh produce.
"I had an early two-month season and that sold out almost immediately," Brinker said. "I definitely have seen a good response. People are really excited for farmers market season.
Out of precaution, Brinker is delivering all of his boxes rather than having people come to his Tickle Creek Road farm for pickup. His delivery boundaries include all of Portland east of the Willamette River, north to Troutdale, east to Welches and south to the Happy Valley/Milwaukie area.
"I've actually found it more convenient," he noted, adding that some customers set up mutual pickup places for multiple families to make things even easier.
Brinker offers a variety of vegetables, such as onions, peppers, tomatoes, beans, garlic, salad greens and root vegetables, as well as medicinal herbs in his CSA shares. His produce boxes include eight to 12 items and can be set up to be delivered once a week or every other week throughout the season.
"I provide a pretty substantial variety," Brinker said. "And, I try and always include some kind of medicinal herbs."
Shares shake out to cost about $40 per box. Full shares with weekly delivery cost $720 for the 18-week season, and half-shares with delivery every other week are $360.
Brinker considers his herbs to be what really sets him apart as a CSA. The son of a naturopathic doctor, Brinker has farmed most of his life, looking to grow fresh produce and herbs to sustain lifelong health.
"I don't see a lot that offer both," he said. "I believe 'let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.'"
Some of the herbs Brinker typically includes are rosemary, thyme and chives.
Brinker has both half and full shares still available and people can sign up online at briarpatchbotanicals.com.
"These are weird times, but I'm happy to be providing something people are needing," Brinker said. "What's more important right now than staying healthy and eating good food?"
Sowing a new web presence
In Sandy, Lili Tova at Flying Coyote Farm also has been adapting her services to meet a growing need. Tova has been running the Flying Coyote CSA for eight years and had to increase the number of CSA shares she offered this season.
"It's been an adjustment," she said. "It's a lot of pivoting. We're taking a lot of energy to grow the CSA. It's been crazy. We doubled our CSA numbers and sold out in two weeks."
Those still in need of produce are still in luck, however. Tova has created an online store where you can choose from CSA-style boxes based on size and variety. The site at flyingcoyotefarm.com will go live by June.
"For folks who missed out on our CSA, we want to offer a way for them to get produce in Sandy," Tova said.
Besides a large variety of greens, root vegetables and other produce, the Flying Coyote Farm also offers meats and value-added items like hot sauce, salsa and sauerkraut.
Flying Coyote Farm, 16261 S.E. Ten Eyck Road, Sandy, is certified organic and biodynamic, meaning the farm exercises "holistic land stewardship." They plant and cultivate their crops with an emphasis on "seeing the farm as one whole organism," and pay attention to how one part of the whole affects every other.
For example, Flying Coyote owns goats that provide milk that is fed to the pigs who create compost that the farmers then use on the fields.
"It really increases the flavor of the food and its shelf life," Tova said of her practices that sets the Flying Coyote CSA apart from others.
Tova added that she believes the fact that Flying Coyote Farm is female-led and pays their employees more than minimum wage also helps the farm stand out. Paying the 12 people who help grow and harvest the farm's crops is part of what motivated the new online store.
"We've felt we had to do everything we could to continue to pay those folks," Tova said.
Those who purchase from the farm online can place order from Monday to Thursday and pick up their boxes on Friday. Tova offers limited delivery in Sandy for folks who are immunocompromised or otherwise not able to pick up their orders.
"I want people who don't feel comfortable coming to a public pickup site to still have access to our food," Tova said.
Produce boxes range in price from $20 to $40 and contain seven to 10 items each.
"I'd say it's comparable to what you'd pay at the farmers market," Tova said.
Flying Coyote Farm will be at the Hollywood Farmers Market in Portland this summer, offering preorders for pickup.
At the farm pickup, Tova and employees will offer hand sanitizer and guidelines to promote customer safety. People can arrive when they want within the timeframe, but should wait to leave their vehicles if someone already is picking up.
"I think local food has always been really important, and this situation is highlighting that in some ways," Tova said. "It feels like this really sweet moment to get to step into this role we've wanted to fill and selling more locally than we have been. There's a level of safety, and community connection (buying directly from farmers) offers more than even going to the grocery store does. I hope that the fact that we're here for people to fall back on is something people don't forget."
Veggies and victory gardens
Lily Klimaszewski, co-owner of Lil' Starts Urban Farm in the East Columbia neighborhood of Portland, is similarly hopeful that the increase in interest now will continue after the crisis is over. Five weeks ago, Lily and her husband, Luke, started their own online store at lilstarts.com, partnering with local makers to offer not only their farm-grown produce and plant starts, but coffee, honey, kombucha and more.
"Being farmers (running an online store) is really new to us," Klimaszewski admitted. But, when her CSA sold out quickly, she wanted to still be able to provide produce to those looking for it.
When the couple initially started the store, they'd receive 30 to 40 orders a week. Now that number is closer to 200. Klimaszewski feels like their plant starts have been most appealing to people lately.
"They've been a big draw," she said. "Victory gardens are a big thing right now."
The Klimaszewskis offer a variety of produce and plants at their 2.5-acre farm at 1304 N.E. Gertz Road, Portland.
"We try to have a range by growing a little bit of everything," Klimaszewski said. They offer salad greens, root vegetables, tomatoes and more that are ready to eat and plants in the way of eggplant, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, peppers, annual flowers and more.
For the time being, orders are taken from 9 a.m. Monday to noon Thursday with pickup running from 3 to 6 p.m. Sundays for produce and other perishable goods and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for plants. Similar to Flying Coyote, the Klimaszewskis ask only one person be out of their vehicle at a time for pickup for customer safety.
The Klimaszewskis also plan to participate in the Montavilla Farmers Market once it's open, maintaining distancing and other safety practices for customer and employee health.
Klimaszewski noted that they offer delivery for an additional $3 and only within Northeast and Southeast Portland. They have been working on being able to offer delivery to more areas, but for now don't have the resources. That said, Klimaszewski still considers pickup from the farm "inherently safer" than going to the store because there is a smaller supply chain handling the produce.
"Our relationship with our customers is personal," she said. "We care about them. I also think people want to feel good about what they're doing with their money right now."
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