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CSA teaching and feeding Fort Collins residents

This summer it will be easy for Rams to enjoy fresh, affordable, university-grown vegetables.

A group of eight students are hard at work reviving the ColoState CSA, a service that provides weekly deliveries of vegetables grown organically at the University’s Horticulture Farm located a few miles north of Fort Collins. The CSA once sold hundreds of shares, but now the group is starting all over — and looking for new customers.

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“We are starting everything from scratch, so we’re trying to not bite off more than we can chew,” said Gary Gross, a horticulture major who has worked in organic vegetable production for much of his life.

This season, the CSA will offer 50 shares available only to CSU students, staff, faculty and other university affiliates.

“One-hundred percent of our proceeds will go back into the program,” Gross said. “We are really hoping to grow the program over the years.”

In addition to providing its customers with 20 weeks of fresh vegetables, the group hopes the CSA will act as a resource for other Fort Collins area growers. There are plans to publish notes on varieties that grew well, cropping schedules and other research done over the course of the summer.

“We want to have a spirit of cooperation with the other CSAs in town,” Gross said. The group is interested in testing innovative ideas for organic weed management and soil fertility that growers can easily use on their own farms.

“We want to keep this relevant to actual on-farm production,” Gross said.

The CSA will also offer students an outlet to use agricultural concepts they have learned about in the classroom out in the field — literally.

“We want to engage more of the students in actual, hands-on farming,” said Chris Engels, another horticulture major who has no background in agriculture. Working at the Horticulture Farm has helped him develop important skills such as operating farm machinery and irrigation scheduling.

The CSA will offer full shares for $500 and half shares for $250. These prices are competitive or slightly cheaper than many of the local CSAs which will hopefully allow low-income college students and staff to participate in the program, according to Gross.

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A limited number of fruit shares supplied by produce from former professor Frank Stonaker’s orchard in Hotchkiss, Colo. will also be available for $100.

“We want to make sure that this is accessible to students,” Gross said.

Potential customers are sometimes put off by the up-front cost, but CSAs can be one of the most affordable ways to enjoy fresh, local vegetables.

“When you do the math, $250 for 20 weeks (of organic produce) is pretty cheap,” said Dan Long, a Ph.D. candidate in the horticulture department.

What does the math equal? About $2 a day.

To get more fresh produce to those in need, the CSA will donate its extras to the FoCo Café and the Larimer County Food Bank. In the future, the group hopes to offer subsidized CSA shares for low-income families.

The first delivery isn’t until May 22, but Gross encourages people to sign up now to enjoy a summer’s worth of fresh vegetables and to help support the next generation of farmers. To learn more about ColoState CSA, please visit www.facebook.com/ColoStateCSA.

Collegian Editor at Large Isabella Heepke-Laws can be reached at community@collegian.com.

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