Local CSA support continues to grow
As Jody Lenz pointed out the laying hens that are part of Threshing Table Farm, her daughter Claudia chimed in with the exact number.
"67. I counted last week!"
Jody and Mike Lenz started their community supported agriculture farm in 2007, when they created a trial CSA in town. In 2008, they purchased 10 acres of a former dairy farm in Star Prairie to continue expanding their enterprise.
A CSA is a farm in which community members can purchase shares, which means a box of fresh food every week that they can pick up or have delivered.
Since 2008, the Lenzes' farm has grown, adding more members and new food options.
During their first year, they had 20 members. Their second year, they doubled in size, providing food to 40 members. This year, their goal is 75 members. So far, they have 67 and are still accepting members. July 8 marks the beginning of their season, when the first shares will be delivered.
But the Lenzes' farm is about more than making a profit.
Community is important to them. They prefer members to come pick up their food and visit the farm, though they understand that isn't possible for everyone. They offer drop-off sites in Somerset and Dresser.
They also stress the educational factor involved in CSAs and agriculture and recently held a field day to educate interested people.
"We attended a lot of field days," said Jody, referring to the beginning of their CSA journey.
She also emphasized the importance of classes for beginning farmers.
"We would not be here without our Farm Beginnings class," she said. The Land Stewardship Project offers a Farm Beginnings class that seeks to educate new farmers. The Lenzes traveled to Winona, Minn. to attend the class during the winter of 2006-07.
The Lenzes have three kids: Claudia, Malcolm and Jonas. They've embraced the farm lifestyle as well. Jody pointed out a row of squash that Malcolm's kindergarten class planted and potatoes that Claudia's class helped to plant. Claudia followed her parents around, enthusiastically chatting about the various farm animals and helping her father pick some zucchini when prompted.
"It's a great lifestyle," said Jody, though she admitted that managing the house, farm and kids can be challenging at times.
Since Mike works full-time as an engineer in addition to helping with the farm, Jody does a bulk of the work.
"He's the planner of it," she said. "I'm more hands-in-the-dirt."
Though Mike said the hours can get long, he enjoys his hectic schedule.
"It seems to work out, keeps my mind busy," he said.
The Lenzes' farm differs from typical corn or soybean farms. They usually don't finish planting everything until September.
"Our friends always ask, 'Are you done planting?' We're never done planting!" Mike said with a laugh.
This year Jody has started beekeeping and the Lenzes have set up a temporary greenhouse to get them through this year. They hope to set up a permanent greenhouse next year in an old barn.
Mike has also set up an irrigation system to water the five acres that they use to grow crops, though it hasn't been used much this year.
"All the rain has been wonderful," Jody said.
She recalled that last summer, Mike had to get up in the middle of the night to move the irrigation system for more than 30 days in a row.
The Lenzes have learned a lot since they started Threshing Table Farms, but they don't pretend to know everything.
"We're constantly learning," Jody said.
If you are interested in learning more about CSAs or would like to become a member of Threshing Table Farm, go to www.threshingtable farm.org. They offer full shares for $400, which means a 3/4 bushel box every week, and a half share for $250, which is a 3/4 bushel box every other week. They also give members the opportunity to purchase fresh eggs and pasture-raised beef and chicken. Those are not included in the shares.