FarmShares Encourages Healthy 'Locavore' Eating

The term "locavore" gnaws its way into the national conversation about food, the opportunities to consume items produced 100 or so miles from home have started to sprout as well.

Now there is the chance to participate in the movement to decrease the distance between grower and consumer and "eat local" through FarmShares, a community-supported agriculture program, or CSA, formed by farmers in Yolo County's Capay Valley.

Known as the home of both the Cache Creek watershed and Cache Creek Casino Resort, Capay Valley got its name, pronounced "Kay-pay," from the Wintun Indian word for stream. Tucked into the eastern foothills of the Coast Range, on the other side of Lake Berryessa, the pastoral finger valley is about 20 miles northwest of Davis. It has one of those enviable Mediterranean climates so favorable for heat-loving crops in summer and cool-weather crops in winter. Seasonal crops range from mandarins and cauliflower in the winter to oranges and green garlic in the spring, peaches and corn in the summer, and apples and leeks in the fall, and this is just a small sampling of the harvest.

Capay Valley remains rural, promoting itself as "California the way it used to be: family-friendly, hard- working, and serene." Sill, its farmers are eager to accommodate the new wave of consumers with a growing desire to get closer to the origins of their food. "We believe that building direct relationships between agricultural and urban places yields multiple long-term benefits," comments Thomas Nelson, who leads the Capay Valley Farm Shop, " a collaborative farm venture that is developing the CSA 2.0 model by providing local business an on-site market showcasing fresh, seasonal foods grown by Capay Valley farmers."

Nelson has a long history in the region, most recently as Executive Director of Capay Valley Vision, a non-profit community planning organization helping the area's residents, especially growers, take charge of their own destiny. "Since agriculture is the foundation of a rural economy, we need strategies that enhance farms in the region," he observes.

FarmShares is an outgrowth of Nelson's U.C. Davis B-School project to develop a business model for a network of farms to get together and market collectively. But it is far more than just an economic vehicle. It is a force for health and a force for good, offering nutritious produce at the peak of freshness, supporting sustainable farming, and limiting its carbon footprint with a 125-mile sourcing radius.

Like a cooperative, FarmShare subscribers sign up for a weekly delivery of fresh, predominantly organic, seasonal produce from Capay Valley farmers. Orders, in two sizes, Peck and Bushel, are picked up at a central drop site.

The program's Bay Area presence includes sites at design firm IDEO in San Francisco and Palo Alto, and, since October, Kaiser in Hacienda. Now expanding to the broader Pleasanton community, FarmShares is looking at establishing a larger drop site in Hacienda to bring fresh, locally grown produce directly to employees and residents. Nelson urges anyone interested in participating to take a quick online survey to assess demand at . For more information, visit or email Nelson at .

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