Farm fresh produce comes to UCOP every Tuesday
Fruits and vegetables harvested from sunny Capay Valley (located between the Bay Area and the Sacramento Valley) come to Oakland each week, making it easy for anyone at UCOP to get fresh, organic produce the day after it’s been picked from the field.
Take it from Charlotte Strem. The UCOP interim director of Physical and Environmental Planning gets a box every week and splits it with a colleague every other week to manage the abundance. The fresh assortment of produce spurred her to buy a vegetable cookbook and experiment with cooking rutabaga and other veggies she might not otherwise buy on her own.
“This time of year is like heaven; it’s the beginning of the stone fruit season so we get peaches, apricots, and also strawberries, asparagus and artichokes,” Strem said. “It’s whatever is absolutely fresh and ripe throughout the year.”
It all began in 2007 when UCOP kicked off its Community Supported Agriculture program and teamed up with Full Belly Farm in Guinda to provide the goods. In a nutshell, the program lets employees here buy shares in a farm’s harvest, said Andrew Coghlan, UCOP sustainability specialist. The farm gets a guaranteed market for its crops, the local economy gets a boost and members get fresh produce plus a better understanding of where their food comes from.
Each box comes stocked with seasonal fruits and vegetables from tomatoes, peaches and eggplants in the summer to cabbage, turnips and hard squash in the winter.
For those stumped about what to do with the fennel or beets they find in their box, an emailed newsletter supplies recipes for how to turn ingredients in the box into tasty dishes. Full Belly Farm’s website carries an archive of the recipes too.
“People learn to eat out of the box and build their menus around it,” said Judith Redmond, one of four owners of Full Belly Farm. “It turns people into cooks. They’re cooking at home more often, eating together more often, eating more vegetables. They learn to cook things they never would have purchased from the grocery store.”
The 350-acre Full Belly Farm has been growing organic crops since 1985 — long before “organic” was fashionable. It is one of the older organic farms in the state.
“What that means is we have really, really healthy soil because we’ve been working all this time to create a healthy foundation for crops,” Redmond said.
UCOP’s program was initially open just to employees, but has since welcomed others who live and work nearby. The program has about two dozen subscribers.
“It’s something nice we could do for our neighbors,” Coghlan said.
A local rabbit is also benefiting. CSA subscribers collect and donate their carrot tops to a local pre-school to feed its pet rabbit.
Here are some details on the program and how to join:
- What’s in the box? Each box carries a mix of seasonal, organic vegetables, fruits, herbs and nuts. Full Belly Farm keeps a list of crops it grows by month on its website at www.fullbellyfarm.com.
- How often do I get the box? Boxes can be purchased weekly and are picked up on Tuesday afternoons in the Franklin Lobby. How long the box lasts depends on how often you cook and how much you eat. If a box a week is too much, purchase a box biweekly or share a membership with another UCOP employee and pay half the cost.
- How much does a box cost? Cost is $17 a week. Those who pay quarterly pay $16.50 per week or $214.50 for the quarter.
- How do I sign up? Fill out an application form, which you can find on the distribution tables in the Franklin Lobby every Tuesday afternoon, and send it with a check to Full Belly Farm, P.O. Box 220, Guinda, CA 95637.
- Want flowers with that? You can order cut flowers with your weekly or biweekly order.
- Want more? You can also order a full box of a specific crop, such as tomatoes for canning, through the Fully Belly Farm website. The special order will arrive with your weekly or biweekly box pickup.
For questions about box pickups at UCOP or help finding a colleague to share a CSA box, contact Sustainability Specialist Andrew Coghlan at firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions about the produce and cost, contact Full Belly Farm at email@example.com.