Dining In

Talley Farms Fresh Harvest: Farm-fresh produce by the box

Talley Farms’ program ships local produce to a pickup spot near you

Special to The TribuneApril 24, 2013 

The name Talley is well known for one particular crop, one that produces award-winning chardonnays and pinot noirs. However, the roots of this family’s agricultural enterprises run far deeper, and in June 2012 they sprouted a new venture — their Fresh Harvest community-supported agriculture program, or CSA.

Talley Farms was established in Arroyo Grande 1948 by Oliver Talley, and is still owned and operated by the second and third generations of the family. Among the large-scale crops farmed year-round are spinach, cilantro and Napa cabbage, and the farm is one of the largest growers of bell peppers in the state of California.

“From July through August, we’re shipping out about 14,000 boxes of peppers every day,” said Andrea Chavez, manager of the Fresh Harvest program.

Hired in February to spearhead the CSA, the Cal Poly grad brings with her an extensive career in produce, ranging from Western regional sales manager for Dole, to produce broker in Los Angeles, to establishing her own home and office delivery service for fresh fruits and vegetables.

“CSAs have become very popular, and the Talleys decided to do their Fresh Harvest program because they wanted to do something in this community,” explained Chavez.

Essentially, a CSA operates as a subscription program with members receiving a box of produce on a pre-established schedule, usually by picking it up at a drop point. By agreeing in advance to purchase the seasonal bounty of the farm, members gain a certain vested interest in the farm (often getting to know the farmers personally), and thus help in part to support the farm.

The commitment and frequency of CSAs varies depending on the specific farm and how the farmers have chosen to set up their programs. Some farms might only operate seasonally; some ask for the full payment of the subscription in advance; some deliver every week.

Aided by a software system specifically designed for CSAs (Farmigo), which manages membership, delivery schedules and payments, Chavez and the Talleys have set up Fresh Harvest to be very flexible.

Payment is $24 per delivery, and members have such options as receiving a shipment every other week or putting vacation holds on the subscription. Drop-off points have been established throughout the county.

The Fresh Harvest box typically contains about eight to 12 produce items, enough for two to four people a week depending on lifestyle.

Chavez also works up an information sheet pertaining to each shipment’s contents that includes preparation tips, recipes, or even how to properly store the fresh seasonal produce.

Most of the items are grown at Talley Farms specifically for the CSA, some of it on the farm’s 75 acres of organic land.

“We really work to have a good variety of produce, to change it up, and to have things that people generally use all the time,” said Chavez.

To that end, some items are purchased from other growers to supplement the assortment. That might include kiwis from Nipomo, berries from Arroyo Grande, and stone fruit and apples from See Canyon, “so we’re also supporting other local farmers as well.”

Talley Farms will be one of the participants at the SLO Wine Country FarmFest event slated from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Dinosaur Caves Park in Pismo Beach. Held in conjunction with the Pismo Beach Chamber of Commerce’s annual Taste of Pismo, this inaugural event will give attendees the chance to meet several of the county’s food producers.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at ktbudge@sbcglobal.net.

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