How a local farm feeds Ann Arbor residents year-round with unique share program
Sunseed Farm gives a whole new meaning to shopping local
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – It doesn't get fresher than this.
Have you ever wondered where your vegetables come from? A local field nearby? South America, perhaps? In a world where globalization has changed nearly every industry imaginable, local farmers have to play by the rules of the demanding food markets.
But Sunseed Farm here in Ann Arbor found a way to sell directly to consumers by adopting the model of Community Support Agriculture (CSA). It was founded in 2009 by Tomm and Trilby Becker. They have three full-time farmers and hire seasonal employees depending on the demand of that particular harvest.
Behind the scenes at Sunseed Farm (Photo: Trilby Becker)
It is a business that grew out of ideology.
“There’s a lot of really cheap produce out there," said Tomm. "When we started the business we decided that we won’t compete with the markets. (We believe in) a fair living wage and growing in a responsible way. People resonate with that. They want to feel good when they buy food and we decided that we would compete with folks on quality, (by putting) out the best produce that we could."
Becker said you really can taste the difference.
"The food is amazing, it tastes a lot better than the food that people are getting at the grocery store. When people try it and get in the swing of things, they’re hooked," he said.
Radishes are on the long list of vegetables grown annually at Sunseed Farm
How it works
Sunseed offers three 16-week "shares" to their customers, who pay up front for four months-worth of locally grown veggies and fruits. Since they opened their doors in 2009, Sunseed has remained the only CSA farm in Ann Arbor to provide crops year-round.
They grow broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrots, celery, cilantro, eggplant, kale, melons, peppers, spinach, summer squash, to list just a few.
Full shares and half shares (pickup every other week) are available for purchase.
- Fall 2017 Full Share (prorated 8/29-12/8): $553.12
- Fall 2017 Half Share: $315.00
- Winter 2018 Full Share: $590.00
- Winter 2018 Half Share: $315.00
- Year-Long Full Share (prorated 8/29/2017 – 8/17/2018): $1,547.00
- Year-Long Half Share: $845.00
- Fall + Winter 2017/2018 Full Share (prorated 8/29 – 4/27): $1,046.25
- Fall + Winter 2017/2018 Half Share: $580.00
Interested in purchasing a share? Go to their shares page.
Unlike many CSA programs that have a set box waiting for customers, Sunseed offers a market-style pickup. Members can choose which vegetables they want to take home from a diverse display. And they are careful not overproduce: "We harvest just the amount that we have members that week."
But that's not all members get. On Tuesday evenings, members pickup their shares from Wolverine Brewing Co. and enjoy discount beer on site. Sunseed Farm also hosts events like dinners and camp fires for their members several times a year.
Sunseed Farm hosts events for its CSA members on site (Photo: Tomm Becker)
Tomm Becker also emails a member newsletter each week to "talk about what's happening on the farm so they better understand how the food is being grown."
"We (also) talk about the vegetable(s) being grown that week," he said.
Sunseed regularly services 200 families in the Ann Arbor area.
Farmer Ben Hicks holds a fresh bouquet of flowers (Photo: Hannah Weber)
So what's their key to success?
Building a real local food system, which is the basis of a local food economy, says Becker.
"One billion dollars of food is purchased in Washtenaw County each year. If we can produce 5-10 percent of that, that's a lot of livelihood. Local food economy and local food community ... It's something we've lost in the last 50 years due to nationwide and global systems."
Learn more about this unique team and their farm here.
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