Sustainable and Efficient Practices on a CSA Farm

Reader Contribution by Crystal Stevens
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My husband, Eric Stevens is the Executive Farmer and Resident Artist at La Vista CSA Farm on the scenic bluffs of the mighty Mississippi in Godfrey, IL. I am the Assistant Farmer, Greenhouse manager, Web Content manager, and the Newsletter Writer. This is our 4th season as the farmers at La Vista. Eleven years ago, the farm was founded by Maurice Lange. Maurice brought his vision to life at La Vista, which was modeled after Genesis Farm. La Vista has acted as a small business incubator in that the first farmer branched off with her husband and started their own farm, Three Rivers Community Farm and the second farmers at La Vista went on to start their own farm, Riverbend Roots. We all get together regularly for farmer potlucks and farm Pictionary. We also trade sustainable farming secrets and frustrations. We uplift and empower each other to make it through each season. Managing and maintaining a 6 acre CSA Farm with 2 full time and 3 part time employees is a challenge, especially with over 250 members. We grow over 65 varieties of vegetables and several types of fruits. Most of our days are spent on harvesting shares. Because we grow without pesticides or herbicides, we rely on efficient and practical ways of doing things.

Below are some examples of how to improve efficiency on a CSA Farm.

1. La Vista CSA Farms is run by a Core Group of volunteers, who each bring a plethora of skill and insight to the farm. The Core Group handles everything from infrastructure, to finances, marketing, publicity, and intake. The farm could not be as successful without the dedicated

2. La Vista offers a Pick-Your-Own section at the farm for crops that are tedious to pick such as peas, green beans, cherry tomatoes, berries, herbs and flowers. This allows us more time to focus on more immediate farming tasks.

3. We have a pull behind delivery Produce Trailer built by Tom and Lee, Core Group Members. The Trailer has boards which pop down and display the produce bins. This makes deliveries easy, fun and interactive for members.

4. We plant primarily with the water wheel transplanter, a brilliant implement we bought from Morgan County Seeds out of Barnett, Mo. Click here for details. One person drives the tractor while two people sit and plant. The waterwheel transplanting saves time and hours of backbreaking labor.

5. We use spoiled round bales of hay to mulch crops such as tomatoes and eggplant. This is a sustainable way to suppress weeds. The plants grow stronger overnight with these beds of protection. The hay decomposes back into the earth. Check out this video. Mulch Your Farm with Spoiled Round Bales of Hay.

6. We use fabric weed barriers for winter squash, watermelons, and our cucumbers in the field as well as for our sweet peppers in the high tunnel. We pull the weed barriers up at the end of each season and re-use them year after year.

7. We row cover the crops most susceptible to insects such as squash and eggplant.

8. We utilize bolting crops before they go to seed by pulling them up and laying them in the paths as green mulch.

9. We do companion planting. Because of the cool wet spring we had in the Midwest this year, we had to interplant cherry tomatoes in with peas in the pick your own section of the farm.

10. We harvest our own worm castings from our compost piles each year. We use the worm castings in our potting mix, transplanting mix, and by side-dressing plants.

11. We are a drop off location for sustainable landscape companies to add their leaf mulch and grass clippings to our heaping compost pile. We turn the piles weekly and add it to the fields as it ages.

12. We have a garden wish list on our website which asks for things such as toilet paper, food for the farm dogs and cats, building supplies, rubber bands, containers, and other small things that add up. We also request larger items such as lawn mowers.

13. We use reclaimed lumber for all of our farm building projects.

14. We have 3 volunteer work days each week. We get an average of 5 volunteers weekly. La Vista relies heavily on volunteers throughout the season. We have an Adopt-A-Crop Program in place for members to weed and maintain individual crops. They work at their leisure and take pride in making the beds beautiful.

15. La Vista CSA Farm uses Small Farm Central, a wonderful web hosting and farm management company that offers affordable, beautiful website templates and incredibly friendly support and service.

16. We have fun while we work. Check out these videos.

Colorado Potato Beetle Beats.Grow My Garden Grow.