Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
April / May 1998


Lifestyle Bits
compiled by Mary Romano, Office/Communications Manager

How to Choose a CSA
by Pam Sherman

Community Supported Agriculture is a partnership between ecologically conscious farmers and consumers. As a consumer, you buy a share in a CSA farm, receiving organic, vine-ripened vegetables and other foods fresh from the farm once a week. The share cost is almost always equal to or lower than the cost for an equivalent amount of conventional produce. One portion of your membership is non-refundable in case of natural disaster (which may take out one or more crops but, except for the most highly unlikely scenario, others will thrive.) This enables the small organic farmer to stay in business, albeit still earning a very modest income, since organic farmers are not eligible for federal support. The emotional and financial support of a CSA community has even helped small conventional farmers go organic. The following is a list of some criteria which may be helpful in choosing the right Colorado CSA for you.

1) Share Size - Most farms offer full shares and half shares; only some offer single shares. Some CSAs encourage members to split shares. Ask if share splitting is encouraged or if single shares are available.

2) Extras - For most people, the abundance of the weekly share is enough. But some of us want even more strawberries, basil, or whatever. Does the CSA grow enough to let you have extras? Ask about this.

3) Price - Most CSAs charge roughly the same amount. Some may be less expensive but start farming a bit later or stop earlier. Find out when the growing season starts, what produce you can expect at a given time, and how much produce you can expect at peak season.

4) Variety of Produce - What veggies are grown regularly? What's the process of getting other veggies you want? Produce doesn't just mean veggies! A number of CSAs produce herbs, flowers, and fruit, too. At some you can even buy shares of a cow, pig, or other domestic animal, as well as eggs or even baked goods.

5) Pickup/Delivery of Produce - Some farms deliver to a central location in the city, others ask that you come to them. Some farms organize families into groups of six or so; families are grouped by proximity. Let's say you want to go away for a week or a month. Most farms encourage the gift of your week's share to a friend. Or the farm or a friend of yours can give the share to Food Share or the Homeless Shelter.

6) Work Option - Most farms will allow you to work on the farm for reduced cost.

7) Proximity to Your Home - If you go once a week and/or want to participate often in the educational and social aspects of the CSA, you may care about this.

8) Social Aspects - Most CSAs offer social get-togethers.

9) Educational Aspects - Many CSAs offer courses. They have activities planned for school field trips. Some offer special programs for the emotionally and physically- challenged. Some farms accept interns and apprentices.

10) Child-friendliness - Kids of working members usually alternate between working with parents and playing. Some CSAs have a designated volunteer childrens' director. Some have special gardens and animals that make visiting the CSA special.

11) Service Aspect - Is making nutritious food available to everyone important to you? Some CSA or CSA organizations accept foodstamps, work out installment payment plans, have work-exchange options, do trades, and solicit scholarships for those who cannot pay for a share. Many give excess produce to the local food share. Your CSA will welcome your energy in organizing any aspect of service.

12) Organization - Some CSAs are run by an active core group of volunteer members. Some are run by the farmers who own the land, with a group of formal advisors or informal input. Some are run by boards of directors. How might its management style affect you, the consumer-partner?

13) Environmental Sensitivity -How handicapped-accessible is the farm, the pickup, and its activities? Where does it get its water? Does it have enough water rights to ensure sufficient water? Does the water flow through chemical-using before reaching the farm? Does the farm use organic manure? How close are other farms which use pesticides? CSA farms are run by people funded only by a very large heart and rich vision, and the help of consumer-partners who share that vision. For us CSA members, it's a win-win situation. Many of us have noticed that our health is significantly better, our pocketbooks rejoicing, and our vote for the earth is really counting.


What you can do:

Here's a list of CSAs to call in Colorado:

Monroe Organic Farms in LaSalle near Greeley: (970) 284-7941

Happy Heart Farm in Ft. Collins: (970) 482-3448

Sunrise Farm & CSA Garden: (970) 679-4274

Gabriel Farm in Lyons: (303) 938-8975

Stonebridge Farm in Lyons: (303) 823-9561

Blacksmith Ridge Farm in Longmont: (303) 678-0399

Hedgerow Farm in Boulder: (303) 666-4566

Peach Valley CSA in Silt: (970) 876-2850

North Fork Valley Community Farm Project in Hotchkiss: (970) 872-4413.


Slow Death by Poison Cleaners
by Mary Newton, High Plains Group

The easiest thing consumers can do to help stop pollution is to switch to all natural green cleaning products.

In a city of one million people, approximately 372 million tons of toilet cleaner and 1,569 tons of liquid household cleaners are flushed into our drains every year. Some of this toxic water makes it to the water treatment plant and some of the toxins are removed. However, the toxins not removed settle out into sludge that gets returned to the environment as fertilizer or dumped into our waterways.

The remaining water does get further treatment, but due to cost 100% of all toxins are never cleaned out of our water. So it comes back into our drinking water and is also dumped back into our waterways.

Have you looked at the ingredients and warnings on your cleaning products? Companies are required to list only those chemicals that cause immediate and acute dangers. There is no requirement to tell consumers of the toxic chemicals that can have potential long term effects from continual use. Why would you continue to intentionally expose and poison yourself and anyone you care about to these poisons when there is an alternative that is safer, higher quality and less expensive?

We as consumers have the power to change our buying habits and with our buying power help save our environment and ourselves.

Think about all the places we use cleaning products. The kitchen where we put and bake food after using toxic chemicals to clean surfaces. The bathroom where we shower: the heat vaporizes those chemicals we cleaned tub and walls with, then our bodies absorb them--as well as the chemicals in tap water--through our skin.

Is it any wonder that 1 in 5 people are being diagnosed with some form of cancer? DON'T DO IT ANYMORE! Throw out the flammable toxic cleaning products and switch your buying power to CLEAN-GREEN.

What you can do:

Clean-Green Resources
by Pam Sherman

Where to get clean-green household cleaners and further info on this topic? For one, the local health food store. Or refer to the ads in this newsletter for other sources. Another: Mothers and Others for a Livable Planet has a book available called "Clean and Green: the Complete Guide to Nontoxic and Environmentally Safe Housekeeping" by Annie Berthold-Bond. It tells what we can do with products we already have, eg. baking soda, vinegar, olive oil, as well as listing commercially available products. It's available from the Chapter office as a fundraiser for the Lifestyle Committee (see the classified section) or call Mothers and Others toll-free (888) ECO-INFO. email:

Our own Colorado Environmental Coalition is a likely source of information also. There is a lot of it out there. One caveat: if you are on a septic system, take heed! Some clean-green products, while safe for municipal sewage systems, can ruin your septic. Yes, there are horror stories about people who just moved from the city to the country and who didn't know this. Products with high salinity, for instance, are to be avoided, especially if the soil is very saline. Know your land, then check out the product ingredients with a reputable source. Your local health department can be a good place to start. It takes a phone call or two, but compared to the mindless use of commercial chemicals, it's more than worth it.