Eat Local, Eat Well
By Sara Welsh / For The Chronicle
ROCHESTER – When two women met more than 20 years ago and decided to start a farm and sell their produce through a program called community-supported agriculture, they could not have imagined how that farm and they themselves would grow.
“When we first started nobody had really heard of community-supported agriculture – we barely knew what it was all about ourselves,” said Anna Salafsky, co-owner of Helsing Junction farm about two miles southwest of Rochester as the crow flies. “We hit the pavement telling people about it and ended up with 75 members that first year. Now 20 years later we are about to reach 1,000 members. That fact that we are able to provide healthy food and the tools to utilize that food to more than 1,000 people this year, that’s wonderful.”
Their farm, and others that operate under the community-supported agriculture model, involve a community of individuals who pledge support to a farming operation where the growers and consumers share the risks and benefits of food production. CSAs usually consist of a system of weekly delivery or pick-up of vegetables, fruit and other various items.
Helsing Junction Farm is located in the Independence Valley off the Chehalis River. Salafsky, 43, owns the farm with Susan Ujcic, 50.
Salafsky said the two have become great friends as well as great business partners over the past two decades. The farm grows certified organic vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs on its 30 acres of bottomland soil.
This year their summer-season CSA boxes will include items such as gypsy and Italian peppers, flat leaf parsley, comice pears, oriental lilies and many other fruits, vegetables and flowers. They will also include other items from local farms, as well as recipes and a newsletter with nutritional information.
There are mini, small and large family-size boxes with a drop site where the weekly produce will be delivered at Tower and Main Street in Centralia or the state Department of Transportation office at 1411 Rush Road south of Chehalis. Mini boxes cost $20 per week, small boxes cost $26 per week and large boxes cost $37 per week for the 18-week harvest season (mid-June to mid-October.)
Helsing Junction Farm also provides school tours during their growing seasons for children to help learn about produce and eat the food right off the farm.
“We love having the kids on the farm,” Ujcic said. “They get really excited to pick the food themselves and it tastes better. To teach them about the important of fresh organic produce at an early age, it gives us joy that we can provide and teach that.”
A main goal for Helsing Junction is to advocate and teach nutritional value of fresh organic produce for the community.
This year they’ll have a nutritionist analyze the boxes, and the two farm owners will eat from the boxes all season long in a project they’ll document in their newsletter. Last year they both lost 10 pounds during a similar project.
Beginning in mid-June, a stand will be set up on the farm to taste Helsing Junctions produce.
“Some people are nervous about committing to a full season without knowing what to expect,” Salafsky said. “This way they can come to the farm and try the products. We will also have trial offers available where a person can buy one week’s box and take it home and see what they think.”
They deliver their produce to drop sites as far away as Portland to the south and Shoreline to the north, with fans that rave about their food and social conscience.
In fact, Helsing Junction was voted #1 in Seattle Weekly’s Veg-Tastic’s top 5 Seattle CSAs for 2010.
“Helsing Junction Farms stood out to me because they really go above and beyond what other CSAs do and I believe they embody the meaning of community-supported agriculture to its fullest,” said Zibby Wilder, web editor, Seattle Weekly. “They don’t just look to the community to support them, but they support their community through education and events.”