For all kinds of good reasons, the best food to buy is what's grown closest to us, and it's even better for our health and for the planet if the food is raised by organic methods. Small farms practicing sustainable agriculture in our region deserve support and need our dollars to stay in business. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a program that provides such an opportunity, beneficial to both farmer and consumer alike: urban folks can make a difference in a farmer’s life and livelihood while enjoying a variety of very fresh, in-season, sustainably raised fruits and vegetables that come from the land around us.

Benicia Community Gardens, our local non-profit, which currently supports two community gardens downtown (Swensen Garden, located behind Heritage Presbyterian Church, and Avant Garden, a “moveable” garden on First & D Streets), has chosen CSA as a new project to provide more choice for sustainable food to local residents. Our CSA partner, Terra Firma Farm, is located 40 miles from Benicia on 200 acres in Yolo County. Terra Firma sustainably grows over 100 diverse crops each year. You can learn more about the quality of their operation at terrafirmafarm.com/about.html. Choosing to purchase organically raised food directly from the farm, Benicia residents can support a small, diversified farming operation that follows ecological land management practices. Unlike industrial agriculture’s methods, Terra Firma’s are truly sustainable: they encourage biodiversity, save energy and water, protect wildlife habitat, preserve and build topsoils through composting and cover-cropping, and therefore, do not involve use of toxic pesticides, herbicides or petroleum-derived fertilizers that end up depleting soils and contaminating groundwater. (Occasionally, the farm is allowed to use a very limited number of natural pesticides and fertilizers approved by the National Organic Program; you can read more about the rules at the Terra Firma website)

A CSA program wouldn’t be possible without a central drop-off and pick-up site for the farm’s weekly deliveries and for the retrieval by CSA members of their individual boxes of fruits and veggies. Benicia Community Gardens has teamed up with Heritage Presbyterian Church, whose pastor, Beverly White, is proud to have her congregation helping to provide for more sustainable food sources for Benicians, and to be “involved as much as possible in the community.” Heritage Presbyterian has been host to Benicia Community Gardens’ first garden, founded by Dr. Ed Swenson in 1999, and provides for public use of their buildings, as well as helping to cook and serve meals once a month at St. Paul’s. They also sell fair trade tea, coffee, chocolate and olive oil to their members and friends to support various mission projects. Heritage Presbyterian’s participation in our “CSA-Central” program will extend their church’s good will even farther into our community.

For the program to get started in January, we need at least 15 people to sign up with Terra Firma Farm. To become a member, please go to Terra Firma’s signup website, click on “New Members Sign Up,” choose “Benicia” and register. You’ll be asked to make your first payment; once we have 15 people registered, you’ll be notified about the delivery start date.

Produce boxes come in 3 different sizes: small ($14), medium ($24) and large ($32). You pre-pay for a few weeks of delivery ($100 and up) and you can get a discount based on the prepayment amount. New customers can try CSA for 2 weeks; you’ll be asked to deposit $28 to cover 2 weeks delivery of a small box. Once you’ve spent all of your pre-payment, you receive an email notiļ¬cation requesting a new deposit. Alternatively, you can sign up for automated payments. For more details go to www.terrafirmafarm.com. Boxes will be delivered every Wednesday, by 3pm, to Benicia Presbyterian Church and held there to be picked up by CSA members before 9pm. You will receive detailed instructions once you sign up.

We hope that many of you reading this may want to give CSA a try and enjoy a unique opportunity to support one of our regional sustainable farms and have fresh organic produce from Terra Firma delivered almost right to your door!