Califonia Bountiful

A subscription you can eat

Community Supported Agriculture delivers produce to your doorstep.

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For many of us, a walk in the produce aisle evokes echoes of three famous words from Mom: Eat your vegetables! Still, most people don't eat enough veggies for a healthy, balanced diet.

A convenient new road to health from California farms directly to you is called subscription farming or CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. This is where a farmer ships a box of produce directly to the customer each week.

More than a thousand households receive a weekly produce delivery from a partnership of two small family farms, High Ground Organics in Santa Cruz County and Mariquita Farms in Hollister. The cost is $20 a week.

At Mariquita, farmer Andy Griffin is doing what he can to turn his customers on to a new world of produce, including purple cauliflower, an Italian tumbleweed called agretti and cardoon, a member of the artichoke family, which is prized for its succulent stems.

Griffin said he loves growing dozens of different types of vegetables and herbs.

"If I was just doing the same old stuff every day I'd get bored," he said. "But as it stands I'm challenged to constantly grow something new."

His business partner, Steve Pedersen, grows a different mix of produce for his customers, including strawberries, squash and - believe it or not- stinging nettle.

That crop is prized by chefs as an ingredient in pasta.

Pedersen said his customer base is growing, as more people seek out locally grown food.

"It has been said now that the average piece of produce consumed in the United States has traveled over 1,500 miles before it's consumed," he said. "Most of our customers are within a hundred mile radius, so the movement towards buying local has really benefited us a lot."

Chef Brandon Miller of Stokes Restaurant is a big supporter of the produce grown by Pedersen and Griffin.

"We have everything here," he said. "I feel very spoiled to cook here, and when I talk with other chefs around the United States, I always rub it in."

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