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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Get To Know A Farmer: Wealth Underground Farm

Posted by Tony Perez on Sat, Mar 19, 2011 at 1:35 PM

As a supplement to this week's Last Supper column, I've asked a handful of farmers a few questions about their CSA. The hope is that, if you're interested in becoming a member this year, we'll help you find a good fit. There are dozens of great options in the area—our sample is by no means exhaustive. LocaHarvest.com is a great place to start, but it couldn't hurt to stop by the PSU farmers market (opening today!) and ask around. Next up in our series is Wealth Underground Farm. If you opt to pick up a box of vegetables from Nolan Calisch and Chris Seigel, you might recognize their digs from the "Is It Local" sketch on Portlandia. Colin, sadly, is no longer with them.

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How did you first get involved with CSA’s? How long have you been operating?

Prior to starting our own operation, Chris worked at Hidden Villa Farm in California and Nolan worked at Sauvie Island Organics here in Portland, both of which had a CSA program. We are now in our third growing season at Wealth Underground.

Why do you think the business model is important? How do you think it fits in with Portlanders today?

We think many Portlanders see the need for an economy that is close to home, that is tangible and intimate and that runs on trust and accountability. Those involved in CSAs get to be part of beautiful reciprocation. Not only are they supporting a local business but they are able to form a relationship with the people and the land that nourishes them.

How large is your CSA? How many members do you have now and how many can you support?

We have planned to have 30 members this coming season and are already half full. We are also planning on having a few SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, former food stamps) shares available for low income families.

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What’s the range of produce you feature? What can members expect from week to week?

Our shares feature staple vegetables commonly found in the family kitchen as well as varieties that appeal to the more adventurous home chefs. We offer a diverse array of produce and generally introduce a new vegetable each week.

What are a few highlights? The vegetables you’re most excited about, or have been most pleased with in the past?

This past year we had a hakurei turnip tasting that was a huge success. Our sharemembers, including their children, gladly ate the turnips as if they were apples. Being named Wealth Underground Farm, it should come as no surprise that we are excited about our root vegetables. We also frequently include a salad mix in our shares that our sharemembers rave about.

How much is a share?

A full share consists of about $24 worth of produce a week. It can feed a ravenous couple or a small family that cooks somewhat frequently.

How do you handle distribution?

We distribute the shares ourselves every Wednesday during the CSA season. We have a drop in Northeast Portland as well as a pick-up at our farm.

How long is your season?

25 weeks, from June 1st - November 16th

What makes your farm stand out from others in the area?

Our farm is nestled in a meadow across the street from Forest Park, so we are in close proximity to the city while also being surrounded by wilderness. While our focus is growing delicious, organic vegetables, we also use our farm as a venue for education and for artistic collaborations.
Joining our CSA gives sharemembers access to this diverse range of community activity in a beautiful wild space not far from home.

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