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Wisconsin: Community Gardens and CSAs

  • Subject: [cg] Wisconsin: Community Gardens and CSAs
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 16 May 2004 07:07:15 EDT

Sun, May 16, 2004

Thanks to community gardens, even brown thumbs can get fresh greens

By Kate Garsombke
Central Wisconsin Sunday

Community-oriented programs make getting fresh fruits and vegetables this summer easy - even for people who don't have gardens of their own.

Some people are coming back to the idea of heading to farmers' markets to get locally-grown food as society has moved more toward relying on convenience food, said Suzanne Oehlke, a nutritionist at the Portage County Health and Human Services Department.

"Growing food is a skill that many people don't have. We think our fresh fruits and vegetables come from the grocery store," she said. Buying locally-grown food "brings us closer to the basics of eating healthy."
Most communities in central Wisconsin have farmers markets that run throughout the growing season. Oehlke's office runs a program that gives vouchers to low-income senior citizens and families so they can get fresh produce. The program also runs in Wood County.

Community gardens in Portage and Marathon counties also are in high demand.

Portage County's community garden in Whiting is so popular that people who want to purchase one of the 36 plots usually end up on a waiting list, said Dana Jarman, president of the Portage County Community Gardens.

"We'd love to get some more space," he said. But the land where the garden is located is on McDill Academies' property, which doesn't allow for expansion.

Jarman said he thinks the community garden is in high demand because of how inexpensive it is to grow food. "You can grow a lot of vegetables for very little money," he said.

Wood County's University of Wisconsin-Extension office has talked about getting a community garden going in Wisconsin Rapids, but organizers haven't yet been able to find a site, said Kathy Greunke, Wood County horticulturist.

Alternatives exist for others who look forward to the bounty of summer crops, but who don't have a knack for gardening or place for a garden.

Don't have room
for a garden?
* Try becoming a part of a community garden.

Stevens Point and Wausau have community gardens, where the public can purchase plots for the growing season - but space for this summer is very limited.

In Stevens Point, contact Dana Jarman at 341-6372 for more information. In Wausau, contact Tom Rau, executive director at The Neighbors' Place, at 845-1966.

Don't think you can afford fresh fruits and vegetables?
* Check to see if you qualify for a county-run program that offers vouchers to area farmers' markets.

Seniors who meet income eligibility requirements and people who receive assistance through the Wisconsin Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program can participate.

Call Suzanne Oehlke at the Portage County Health and Human Services Department at 345-5350 for more information on the WIC and Senior Farmers' Market Programs. For Wood County seniors who are interested in the farmers' market program, call the Aging Resources Center of Wood County at 421-8900 in Wisconsin Rapids or 387-3791 in Marshfield.

Don't have a green thumb?
* Try Community Supported Agriculture.

Community Supported Agriculture relies on individuals to "subscribe" to a local farm. The subscription fee brings a mixed box of whatever produce, herbs and flowers are in season once a week throughout the growing season to a drop point in your area.

The program also encourages people who have "shares" in the farm's produce to volunteer picking the food they'll later get for being a member.

Sunny Sky Farm in Amherst Junction runs a CSA program that serves Portage, Wood and Marathon counties. Contact Mark Anderson at 824-2697 or at sunnysky@wi-net.com for more information.

* Head to your local farmers' market for locally-grown produce.

Stevens Point, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Mosinee, Neillsville, Iola, Waupaca and Wautoma have farmers' markets throughout the summer, according to Localharvest.org.

Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) lets customers buy a "share" in a farm's produce. For buying a share, customers get a box of whatever produce is in season at the farm once a week throughout the summer. The participating farm often lets people who have shares help pick the food.

There is one CSA program that serves central Wisconsin: Sunny Sky Farms in Amherst Junction. Between 95 and 125 people sign up to get produce from Mark Anderson's farm each growing season.

"I think people just like getting food that hasn't been sprayed with anything," Anderson said. "It's bred for flavor, rather than shipping qualities."
Every week, customers usually get more than a dozen different kinds of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Anderson relies on staple garden crops, but he also tries to throw in a little variety. Last year he planted celeriac - an edible, wild celery that's grown for its fleshy root.

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