Farm-zilla: Spring sign-up time for farm fresh produce

April 2021 Posted in Garden

By Melissa Wagoner

Farm-zilla Spring sign-up time for farm fresh produce

Farm-zilla is the newest CSA farm option in the community. Submitted photo.

Brenda Sparks is a farmer at heart. Raised in California by horticulturist parents on a small, five-acre farm, she grew up helping in the fields, selling vegetables at the local Farmer’s Market and raising animals through 4-H and FFA. 

“Farming is very therapeutic for me as a mother of four kids,” she said. “It energizes me and is my self-care.”

Starting this spring, Sparks will begin sharing her joy for growing things with the community around her through a newly developed Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

“I’m excited to do a real CSA this year,” Sparks – who did a soft-opening last summer by providing food for 12 to 20 people with no pre-order requirements – said. “I’m hoping to do 25 families max.” 

Open to both weekly and bi-weekly options, each share will provide the approximate amount of vegetables for a family of four. And for those families who qualify for the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Sparks has partnered with the Pacific Northwest Food Coalition, a program offering partial funding for CSA shares. 

“If they do a full-share, $200 comes from the Coalition to help pay for their share,” Sparks described. “And if they do a partial share, it’s $100. I’m pretty excited about it. I also got my own reader so I can take EBT and SNAP, so they don’t even have to go through the Coalition.”

Offering a wide-variety of popular garden vegetables such as mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions, Sparks also grows some fruit, such as strawberries and figs, and even some unique items, like artichokes. 

“I’m a real sucker for seeds,” she laughed, showing off a greenhouse already bristling with green shoots. “And even though I have space – there’s never enough space. So, I stick with what’s popular and what I want to eat. But my number one priority is what my children will eat.”

Because Sparks has found that getting them to try new things is much easier when they have watched it grow, a benefit Sparks hopes to pass on to her CSA clients as well. 

“I love growing food that nourishes my family as well as other families,” she said.  “The best feeling is when I hear from a member that their child loves our green beans so much that they have been hiding them in their room to have a secret delicious snack to themselves.”

As for adults who might also need some encouragement to eat their vegetables? Sparks is offering a recipe subscription called, “Cook with What You Have.” 

“There are thousands of recipes on what to do with vegetables,” she said of the website, which also offers pantry tips and seasonal inspiration.

Shares are currently available via the farm’s website, www.farm-zilla.com, with the first deliveries – free to those who live in the Silverton area – available in mid-May. 

“You’ll be supporting a small farm,” Sparks said when asked why supporting a CSA is important. “You’ll be helping us continue to grow.”

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