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Farmers move to food that is `healing to people'.

Byline: The Register-Guard

John Karlik has been farming for a quarter of a century, working the same fertile soil on a hillside seven miles west of Creswell.

Sweetwater Farm began as a plant nursery, and Karlik switched to basil and other herbs, mostly for local restaurants. But he longed for something different.

"I just wasn't fulfilling my take on 'biologically correct' agriculture, that you should be producing food that is healing to people, that is vitamin dense and nutrient rich," he said.

In November 2002, Karlik and his wife, Lynn Crosby, launched Good Food Easy, a community-supported agriculture program. They have 120 subscribers and, with the help of two other families living on the 20-acre farm, assemble food boxes 50 weeks a year - a season much longer than most CSAs.

"It's really nice to be connecting directly to people," he said. "It's a hell of a lot more fun to sell to people who like to cook good food."

Subscribers choose from three box sizes, at $18, $30 or $40 a week. Unlike most such programs, which require advance payment for a season, Good Food Easy customers pay a month at a time.

Subscribers pick up their boxes at the Southtowne Shoppes in south Eugene or other businesses and homes in Eugene, Springfield, Creswell and Cottage Grove.

Typical items include Ugly Ripe tomatoes, Garnet yams, cauliflower, and purple, green or red kale.

Karlik added a mushroom-growing room a few years back, and thanks to scores of hens on the farm, the CSA bags frequently contain farm-fresh eggs.

Karlik also likes to challenge subscribers with produce - jicama or yukina savoy anyone? - that may be unfamiliar to them.

"We tend to be more for the culinarily adventurous," he said. "We're really trying to encourage people whose only cooking experience is boiling macaroni. It's not that hard to cook healthy food."

Branching out

Sophie Bello and Gabe Cox learned horticulture and the business of growing food by working on organic farms in Corvallis and the Triangle Lake area.

Now they hire hands to help them run the 40-acre Groundwork Organics farm near the Willamette River between Eugene and Junction City. They bought the place in 2001 from a retiring farmer who had raised corn, beans and grass seed, and they recently restored the old, two-story farmhouse on the property.

They began harvesting crops in 2000 (starting on leased land next door) and now cultivate more than 40 crops, from beans and greens to rhubarb, root crops and corn. They've planted five acres of strawberries, mindful of how much customers enjoy finding the fruit in their boxes each week.

Only about 10 percent of their harvest goes into the CSA program, which has about 100 subscribers.

Most of the produce is sold at the Eugene Farmers Market and similar markets in Portland, Lake Oswego and Bend.

The rest is sold wholesale, much of it to Willamette Valley restaurants.

Bello said she and Cox wanted to get their farm established before branching out into a CSA program.

"We wanted to make sure we could offer people quality and variety, and we wanted to learn what we were capable of," she said.

The farm broke even in its third year and has made a small profit the past two seasons, Bello said. The direct-sales program provides stability, she said. "Getting that kind of commitment from our local community definitely gives us a sense of security," Bello said.

The cost is $20 a week, and members can chose a 22-week season, which starts this week, or a 10-week winter season that runs through the third week of December, keeping members supplied with fresh produce after farmers markets close. Some households sign up for all 32 weeks.

The food is packed into 10-gallon rubber totes and delivered to a farmers market or other central drop spot.

Limited home delivery is available for an extra $3.25 a week.

Having ripe produce early and late in the season is a major draw for potential subscribers, Bello said.

Last year, the first week's food box contained salad mix, buttercrunch lettuce, broccoli, Walla Walla onions, red garlic, Nantes carrots, baby green zucchini, new potatoes and a pint of strawberries.

The farm tries to avoid including the same items in consecutive weeks.

- Scott Maben


A dozen Lane County farms offer community-supported agriculture programs:

FOOD for Lane County Youth Farm, Springfield: 20 weeks of produce, costing $225-$450. 343-2822

Full Circle Community Farm, Eugene: 28 weeks, $340-$640. 461-3798

Good Food Easy, Creswell: Year-round, $18-$40 a week. 895-2137

Groundwork Organics, Junction City: 22 weeks/10 weeks in winter, $440/$200. 998-0900

Hand-To-Mouth, Eugene: 33 weeks, $640. 461-6642

hey bayles! Farm, Lorane: 20 weeks, $295-$450. 767-0379

Horton Road Organics, Blachly: 21 weeks, $360. 925-3019

NettleEdge Farm, Eugene: 17 weeks in winter, $300-$560. 689-3672

Little Wing Farm, Coburg: 20 or 40 weeks, $400-$800. 484-9973

Winter Green Farm, Noti: 19-24 weeks, $335-$470. 935-1920

Silkcreek Creamery, Cottage Grove (goat cheese): 30 weeks, $110-$220. 767-3759

Laughing Stock Farm, Eugene (eggs, pork, lamb): Year-round, prices vary. 345-2186
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Title Annotation:Agriculture
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 15, 2005
Previous Article:Healthy harvest.
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