Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES - Students in New Mexico State University's College of Agriculture and Home Economics are participating in a new class which will establish and operate the first organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in the Mesilla Valley.
The CSA structure allows people to buy shares in the farm's output and receive a weekly distribution of fresh organic produce, flowers and herbs. The project is supervised by faculty members Paul Bosland and Chris Cramer in the agronomy and horticulture department and Constance L. Falk in agricultural economics and agricultural business. The organic farm, named OASIS (Organic Agriculture Students Inspiring Sustainability), is part of a three-year grant awarded to the college in fall 2001 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Hispanic Serving Institutions grant program to develop a student-managed CSA farm on campus.
"We wanted to give students an experimental educational experience. Long term, I hope we can inspire local farms to tap into the small scale produce market, either through joining this CSA or selling through the farmers market," Falk said. "We doing trials of new varieties and learning about intensive production, cover cropping, composting and the economics and marketing of an organic production system."
Planted on a 1-acre plot at the Fabian Garcia Research Center near the NMSU campus, the garden will soon begin providing members a wide variety of vegetables, including early season crops of carrots, lettuce, onions, cabbage, potatoes, peas, leeks, broccoli, beets and Brussels sprouts. Planting of warm-season crops such as beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, chiles, watermelon, okra and sweet peppers will begin this month. Flowers and herbs are also included.
Advantages of the CSA organic farm include fresh produce picked within 24 hours, larger and newer produce varieties, a better understanding of where food comes from and reasonable prices.
"Many people prefer organic produce because of the low pesticide use and the more natural way in which it's grown," Falk said. "Also, we can grow more flavorful and diverse varieties because we don't have to worry if the produce will hold up during shipping."
Both full and half shares are still available for purchase. A full share is $450, and half shares are $250, with payment plans available. Each full share will provide up to 20 pounds of produce weekly. A full share is estimated to provide enough produce for a family of four, and a half share for a family of two.
The tradition of CSA farms dates back to the early 1970s in Japan, and spread to Europe before it was adopted for the first time in the United States in 1985. Since the first U.S. CSA farm started in Massachusetts, about 1,000 farms in the U.S. have begun CSA operations.
To purchase a share or for more information, contact Falk at (505) 646-4731.
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