ORIENT – Bright vegetables are always appealing to the eye, but fresh produce appeals to the tastebuds. Those are just two reasons people from southwestern Iowa subscribe to a CSA program to get vegetables grown at the Wallace Centers of Iowa.
“We have a CSA, which stands for community-supported agriculture,” said Ann Taylor, vice president, marketing and resource development. “What our program does is provide fresh, organically-grown fruits and vegetables to people who pay a subscription fee.”
Community-supported agriculture is a locally-based model of agriculture and food distribution.
Orient is the birthplace of Henry A. Wallace.
The fruits and vegetables are grown at the Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center in Orient. There are eight drop-off locations: Creston, Greenfield, two in Des Moines, Johnston, Mount Ayr, West Des Moines and Winterset.
Orient is the birthplace of Henry A. Wallace, former Iowa senator and Secretary of Agriculture.
“They start plants from seeds in our small greenhouses,” Taylor said.
The plants are kept in hoophouses, which are long, half tunnels made of plastic that keep heat inside. This has enabled Wallace Centers to start growing earlier and sustain it later in the season. Mosa Shayan, farm programs manager, and assistant Andy Boone tend to the produce.
“We have more than 45 different kinds of produce that we’re growing,” Taylor said. “It’s becoming extensive in central and southwest Iowa, where we have a presence. ... We’re not opposed to expanding, ... but it would have to make sense so we can continue to satisfy our current customers.”
The produce is also supplied to the small restaurant called The Gathering Table, located at the Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center in Orient. The restaurant is open to the public for lunch and dinner on Fridays, and dinner will be served the first Saturday of every month starting in May.
As with anything, there are several reasons people prefer purchasing locally-grown foods.
“Everybody seems to have a different reason for belonging,” Taylor said. “Everything that they get is super fresh, so their produce has a longer shelf life as compared to many grocery store items.”
Another reason is keeping food dollars in Iowa, rather than purchasing produce grown in other states.
Some also prefer supporting a local organization as opposed to a national grocery branch.
To subscribe to the Wallace Centers’ weekly boxes of produce, a registration form is available online at www.wallace.org.
Cost is $450 for the 20-week program. Each week, subscribers go to a designated location and pick up a box of a minimum of five different kinds of fruits and/or vegetables, like lettuce, rhubarb, okra and sweet potatoes. Payment is due by May 1.
Also included in the produce boxes is a weekly newsletter. The newsletter contains storage tips, garden features and easy recipe ideas.
“This will be our fourth season,” said Taylor. “And, we started by offering 35 subscriptions our first year, and we expect to do 90 (this year).”
Currently, Wallace Centers has 15 subscriptions available for purchase.