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Archive for Monday, May 3, 2004

Farmers alliance cultivates ranks of satisfied customers

May 3, 2004

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Leni Salkind loves going to the Community Mercantile, 901 Iowa, every Monday afternoon during the spring and summer.

At the Merc, Salkind picks up a bag of freshly grown vegetables and fruits specially collected for her by area farmers who use organic farming methods.

"It's a treat," Salkind said. "I love getting my produce directly from the farm."

Salkind, a member of the Lawrence school board, has been a subscriber to a cooperative of local growers called the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance the past 10 years.

Her weekly bag of produce contains eight to 10 items. The alliance also offers an economy bag, which contains six to eight items. This year, the economy bags are available at Douglas County Senior Services, 745 Vt.

Stu Shafer, who farms just north of Lawrence in Jefferson County, is the site coordinator for the economy bags.

"With the smaller bag, a retired couple or individual likes that size," Shafer said. "We're hoping that by having a pick-up site in a location that is already accessed by seniors, they will become more familiar with the service."

The alliance usually includes eight growers, but two are on sabbatical this year. Shafer said all the farmers would have to increase production to meet the need. The alliance plans to have around 300 subscribers this year.

Shafer has an apprentice, Anna Kern, to help him with the increased load. Kern was placed with Shafer as part of the Growing Growers program. The program's goals are twofold: to train farmers and increase the number of small farms that grow organic foods in the Kansas City-metro area.

Stu Shafer, a member of the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance, picks
some spinach from his patch. The alliance runs a subscription
service that provides area residents with fresh fruits and
vegetables each week.

Stu Shafer, a member of the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance, picks some spinach from his patch. The alliance runs a subscription service that provides area residents with fresh fruits and vegetables each week.

"We need another generation to carry on," Shafer said. "The last few seasons I've had one hired hand. With this program, it is more of a formal learning process."

Paul Johnson, who farms near Perry, is the site coordinator at the Merc. He's also trying to increase production this year.

"The seeds are in the ground, and we're hoping the weather cooperates," Johnson said. "We always want to err on the side of having fewer customers and making sure we get them the best product. We've had waiting lists in past years but I don't know if that will happen this year or not."

Salkind is one customer who said she was particularly grateful to the alliance because she is unable to grow foods in her back yard.

"We don't have good sun. We can barely get a tomato to grow," Salkind said. "But between the Farmers Market and Rolling Prairie, we're able to get fresh, quality, good food.

"It's also nice to know who grows the food. They're always working there when we pick it up."









The Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance will begin delivering produce next week. For information on subscribing, check the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance Web site at www.rollingprairie.net or pick up a brochure at the Community Mercantile, 901 Iowa.Established subscribers pay a $40 deposit at the beginning of the season and $13.50 each week for a bag of eight to 10 fruits and vegetables. New subscribers pay a $50 deposit and the same weekly price.Customers also can sign up for an economy bag, which costs $9.25 a week.The regular-bag customers pick up their produce on Mondays at the Merc. The economy-bag customers pick up their produce Thursdays at Douglas County Senior Services, 745 Vt.

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