If you put two tomatoes side by side in the middle of summer, one picked fresh from a local farm in the Nehalem Valley, and one shipped from Mexico, you see, feel and taste the difference. The local tomato is going to run with sweet juices when you bite into it and taste like the summer sun. The store-bought variety can't rival this fresh-off-the-vine taste sensation. To Ginger Salkowski of Revolution Gardens, the difference between these two tomatoes highlights what is special about the community supported agriculture (CSA) programs operating out of the Nehalem Valley.

"The farms are small and family-owned. The farmers love their work and take great pride in producing the best-tasting, highest quality food for their community," Salkowski said. "It is hard to imagine a more healthy and joyful thing than to eat a ripe organic tomato grown in Nehalem on the day it was picked in late July. The experience is packed with vitamins, taste and all the goodness of our clean water, fresh air and sunshine. Compare that to a commerically shipped tomato that was grown in Mexico in December: tasteless, nutritionless and there is no connection to where or how it was grown. The further our food has to travel, the more hands it passes through, the longer it sits in storage, the less healthy it becomes, for us and for the environment," Salkowski explained.

"Buying in season and local will make you healthier and more joyful because every bite brings with it the connection you feel to this place we call home," Salkowski added.

Revolution Gardens and Kingfisher Farms, which are both located on Oregon Highway 53 outside of Nehalem, will deliver the highest-quality organic produce to CSA subscribers who pay in advance to become shareholders in the farms. This gives farmers capital to work with in the off season, as well as a way to gauge how much they should plant in the spring for summer's bountiful harvest. For those who participate in CSA as shareholders, the benefits are numerous, including the health benefits of eating nutrient-rich, organic produce while leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Participants can feel confident that what is healthy for them is also healthy for the environment.

Kingfisher Farms has been growing organic produce for the past 20 years. They now produce 50 different kinds of vegetables throughout the season. Jeff Trenary, the owner and operator of Kingfisher Farms, became inspired to start a community supported agriculture program seven years ago after traveling in Italy and observing a similar system of bringing freshly grown produce into people's homes.

In addition to selling produce to the public through CSA, farmers markets and health food stores, Trenary also sells directly to some of Oregon's best chefs. Kingfisher Farm's field greens, beets and fingerling potatoes (among other seasonal delights) are featured at Bread and Ocean in Manzanita, Newmans at 988 in Cannon Beach and at the Columbian Cafe in Astoria. In Portland, Kingfisher Farms is featured on the menu at Higgins, Wildwood, Nostrana, Clarklewis and Ciao Vito. In addition, Kingfisher Farms has been showcased in the kitchen of the James Beard House in New York City.

So, in becoming a shareholder of Kingfisher Farms, hobby chefs and epicureans will have the chance to cook with the same ingredients as some of the greatest culinary minds in the state.

Revolution Gardens is a newer venture. They have just entered their second year of producing a wide range of organic produce and free range eggs in an ambitious "off the grid" venture. With a focus on organic permaculture, Revolution Gardens offers a wide variety of heirloom organic produce ranging from arugula to zucchinis.

There are many hidden values to becoming a CSA subscriber, as Salkowski pointed out.

"I would say the values of community, health and joy all come to mind," she said. "Community because it takes people caring and working together to support a locally sustainable agricultural system. Farmers need people who care enough about what they buy and who they support with their food dollars to choose local food first, instead of looking for the lowest price or the shiniest apple at the grocery store. We don't need to have layers of supermarkets, semi-trucks, multinational corporations, warehouses and advertising in between the farm and plate. Food is the essence of community, the growing, sharing, cooking and eating of it defines who we are to a great extent. Community supported agriculture is a wonderful way to share in the bounty of our area," Salkowski said.

Revolution Gardens will be accepting 13 CSA members for the season, which runs from June 7 until Oct. 25. Subscribers may opt for one, two or all three of their seasonal deliveries for 2009. There is also the option of adding on a dozen farm fresh eggs to your veggie CSA for an additional $5 per delivery. The weekly deliveries are designed to supply enough fresh produce for two vegetarian adults (or a small family of omnivores) and will be delivered to the doorstep of Nehalem Bay area residents. Each seasonal harvest share is $199, a full-season share (spring, summer and fall - a total of 21 deliveries) is $595. Full-season shares will be given preference in registration. The dates for the different season shares are as follows: Spring Harvest Delivery, June 7 through July 19; Summer Harvest Delivery, July 26 through Sept. 6; Fall Harvest Delivery (Sept. 13 through Oct. 25.

To become a CSA participant, contact Revolution Gardens at info@revolutiongardens.com to secure your space. In your e-mail please indicate which part of the seasonal delivery you are signing up for.

Becoming a Kingfisher Farms shareholder costs $500 for the season, which runs for 20 weeks, with a box of produce delivered to a drop site of choice. To subscribe to Kingfisher Farms CSA services, contact Nicole Poole at nicole@nehalemtel.net

"The farm grows well over 50 different vegetables throughout the season that will be featured in the boxes as well as newsletters every two to three weeks and fruit that we trade from other organic growers so we can treat our members with some summer sweetness as well. Besides the vegetables that you'll see come and go in your box as the season progresses, you can also expect to find our lovely mix of salad greens regularly throughout the 20 weeks," Poole said of their CSA program.

In addition to offering CSA subscriptions, Revolution Gardens has spearheaded an impressive new Web site. Salkowski noticed that there are lots of great farmers in the Nehalem Valley, and lots of people who wanted their food, but that the two entities were not finding a common venue for selling and purcasing goods.

"There wasn't an easy place to find, order and get delivery of local foods to folks in our community. The new Web site, www.revolutiongardens.com, lets you order locally-produced veggies, meats, eggs, baked goods, flowers and more and have it all delivered to your door. It's one-stop shopping, easy to use, diverse selection, farmer-direct for maximum freshness and taste. It is also a better way for farmers to sell because pre-orders take much less effort and cost than setting up at a market or managing an entire CSA on your own. It is a win-win system for everyone involved," Salkowski said of the new venture.

For orders of $25 or more, deliveries of goods will be made to those people who live within the Nehalem Bay area, which is just an added benefit of shopping locally. Now, it is easier than ever to support a local farmer while putting nutritious food on your table.

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