Our first — but not last — CSA with Rise Up Farms in Elkhart

Alex Smith, Rise Up Farms Farmer

A few things Alex Smith and I have in common is that we both love local, sustainable eating AND we were both new to Rise Up Farms in Elkhart, IN, this year — he as Farmer organizing the flow of the entire farming operation and me as CSA member picking up a weekly harvest of tasty vegetables cultivated close by.

Rise Up Farms vegetables

Photo provided by Alex Smith of Rise Up Farms.

Dan and I have really loved supporting Rise Up Farms this year by purchasing a half share in the CSA program and plan to participate again next year. When we visited the farm for the first time, I was all sorts of giddy and taking photos on the sly. I’ll admit, I naturally get super excited about all things local food and smile widely shopping at the South Bend Farmers Market, but this was a whole new level. I was able to tromp through the field of vegetable seedlings I would enjoy later in the season and talk to MY farmer. Yes, I garden, but this was different. This was a little food community.

When I asked Alex about his experience this year, he says community is what it’s all about. “I loved meeting our CSA members, hearing what people were doing with their vegetables and knowing that the farm was contributing to people’s health and sustenance,” says Alex. “I also enjoyed working with work share members and interns. Many had valuable and practical suggestions, and it’s amazing what we could get done with three or four people working together!”

Rise Up Farms work share

Photo provided by Alex Smith of Rise Up Farms.

This year Alex is the only paid worker at Rise up and says the 8 work share members and his two part-time interns were a great help as this was his first time managing an entire farm. Work share members work at least 1.5 hours/week for a half share and 3 hours/week for a whole share.

We did not have a work share, but next year I do hope to make it out at least one day to help work the farm a bit, meet other members and really connect with the whole process of farming. We all rely on farms, we just don’t all consider the costs, time and energy each magnificent fruit or vegetable really requires. And I never want to forget. And I want to learn more.

For Alex, this year has been a foundational learning experience and he plans to make some adjustments next year to make the CSA subscriptions even better. “It was wonderful just getting to know the farm — learning about our soil and how the plants relate to it, meeting our local communities of beneficial and not-so-beneficial creatures, and experiencing the arc of the season,” he described. “Next year I will plant many crops earlier, adjust the relative quantities of crops, keep things a bit cooler in the greenhouse, and tweak countless other things.”

He said the farm had all the CSA members they hoped for (about 80 full shares total) and even had to turn people away this year. CSA membership subscriptions will open up again in late February for June-October 2015 season and he hopes to be able sustain another 8 to 12 additional shares. During the winter they’ll make maple syrup, continue to host Saturday yoga classes from 9:30 to 10:45 (open to all for a minimal donation), and likely host a community event sometime in the late winter or early spring.

But before that, Rise Up is hosting a brewing and food and beer pairing workshop at 11 a.m. on Saturday, October 25, led by professional brewer Ryan Thompson, who is getting ready to open up his own brewery, Hydraulic Ale Works, in Goshen. The workshop costs $35 if you pre-register by calling 574-214-5626 or emailing riseupfarms@gmail.com and $40 after October 22.  You can drop payment off in person, or mail checks to Rise Up Farms, 22600 State Road 120, Elkhart, IN 46516. Rise Up is also planning a harvest festival with live music, kids’ activities, food and drink on Saturday, November 8. Community is welcome to participate in both events.

Notes: Alex was featured in the fall 2014 issue of Edible Michiana on page 30 – 31. Also, I’ve never eaten so much kale in my life, and never thought I would. And now, I think I’ll go have a snack of baba ghanoush that I made from beautiful purple eggplants from Rise Up Farms.