by Joshua Campbel
Reginan Carla Ballman faced a dilemma.
After learning about the origins and journeys of the food she easily pulled off store shelves she wondered if she could put her mouth where her money was.
“When I shop I’m voting with my dollars,” said Ballman, 32.
Wondering ceased when Ballman discovered the Green Ranch, a community supported agriculture (CSA) business which offers people meat and vegetables locally produced on a farm 100 km’s south east of Regina near Fillmore Saskatchewan.
“As far as I know, the Green Ranch is the only CSA I know in the Regina area,” said Ballman. “The only other one I know is halfway across the province.”
The Green Ranch, owned and operated by husband and wife team Tim and Carla Schultz, contracts food to customers who pre-pay a full season’s worth of meat and vegetable products.
Every Tuesday, the Schultz’s rollup to the Saskatchewan Science Centre in their Green Ranch truck and trailer bringing fresh produce from their farm gardens to their pre-assigned customers.
The Schultz’s stumbled upon the idea of a CSA in an article in 2007.
“There was a guy named Wally who made a living off of a half-acre of land,” said Tim, referring to Wally’s Urban Market Garden. “I thought, ‘We have 1,000 acres of land. Imagine what we could do.’”
The idea couldn’t have come at a better time. The Schultz’s, whom had used the land for rearing cattle, had just been “rocked” by the mad cow disease epidemic.
“We were racking up debt and had to do something different,” said Tim.
They made a decision to plant large, pesticide-free gardens sections on their land.
The risk paid off. By 2009, with the Schultz’s combination of vegetable garden CSA sales, beef sales and contract work with other local Saskatchewan producers to Regina consumers, things were looking up.
“We started last year with 25 CSA members in Regina,” said Tim. “This year we have 50 and next year we hope to have 100.”
The demand has been so great that the Schultz’s have begun hiring summer employees to help harvest.
Tim sees the growing demand as a result of more media coverage that supports local economies.
“Right now there’s a big buzz about the 100-mile diet,” he said. “People want to lessen their carbon footprint.”
He also credits their success to the personal relationships that develop between farmer and consumer.
“It’s big when parents can introduce their kids to the farmer.”
Dauna Ditson, one of Ballman’s referrals to the Green Ranch, agreed.
“It feels like your going to your grandparents’ farm on Tuesdays,” she said. “You have a relationship with your food that you don’t usually get. It made me realize there’s a lot of effort that goes into my food.”
Ballman added that the fact that she has to pay a little more for her groceries pales in comparison to the benefits she receives.
“Trying to live environmentally and socially conscious is important to me,” she said. “I’m willing to pay more because I know where my food is coming from.”
Ada Bennett, manager of the Regina Farmer’s Market, said people like Ballman and Ditson represent a growing trend of consumers, who are choosing to buy groceries that are local and organic.
Bennett finds that most farmer’s market customers are women in their 30’s and 40’s who are shopping for their families.
“They want their children to eat well,” she said.
The Green Ranch can be found online at www.thegreenranch.ca. Once on the website customers can choose the vegetables they want each week and pick them up every Tuesday at the Saskatchewan Science Centre.
The Green Ranch is also one of the many vendors at the Regina Farmers Market. Markets are held during winter months on Saturdays from October 16th to December 18th, 9:30am to 1:30pm at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, 2900 13th Ave.
Photo: Josh Campbell