Community-supported agriculture isn’t just about produce. It’s about community, too. So I always love talking to the Colorado farmers who are bringing us the fruits and vegetables we’ve grown to love — before they get too busy in the fields to talk! For other profiles in this series, click “Personalities” under the “Categories” heading at right.
If you are lucky enough to live in Fort Collins and are able to become a member of Happy Heart Farm, you will be joining a strong community that goes back two decades. Owners Dennis and Bailey Stenson are credited with opening the first CSA in Colorado in 1990, long before movies like Food, Inc. and Michael Pollan’s books helped to popularize the movement.
Back in the late ‘80s, the Stensons had already been working at farmers markets for years when they decided to attend a conference in New Mexico on upcoming trends. Among the topics under discussion were co-housing and community supported agriculture. The latter resonated for many reasons. “To have the food presold was a huge thing,” recalls Bailey, who had young children at the time. She also appreciated “not having the stress of moving the food.”
Another aspect of the CSA model they particularly liked was the connection with members. Indeed, this connection remains as vital today as it was when they started. “We’ve chosen to stay a small farm instead of one with thousands of members because of it,” she explains. Members feel the connection, too: Happy Heart Farm has nearly 30 working members, one of the highest participation rates in the state. Last year, one member – a chef — even cooked meals. “To come up from the field and have food prepared for us was like a dream come true,” she said. The Stensons have also opened up their farm to apprentices and students in a commitment to sharing their knowledge and expanding their community.
The farm practices not just organic but biodynamic techniques, such as using homeopathic herb-based sprays for pest control and following the lunar and planetary calendars for planting and composting. For a member, a season at Happy Heart Farm typically starts in late May with spinach, cilantro, radishes and chives and ends in late October with herbs, squash, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and more. Along the way, members might receive anything from chard to Brussels sprouts, edamame to tomatoes. For a list of last year’s produce, broken out by week, click here .