Campus CSA program takes root

By Anne Elliott

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Sam Roper has taught English at Whatcom for 12 years, and has been a farmer for three. Photo by Zach Barlow.

For the third year in a row, students at Whatcom Community College have the opportunity to receive fresh organic produce for a lower overall price, straight from the farm it was grown on.

This opportunity is available through the program Workplace CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). In CSA arrangements, community members pay a farmer, who uses the funds to buy and plant seeds. In return, the community members receive boxes of fresh vegetables throughout the growing season, usually June through October, lasting 15-20 weeks depending on the season.

Sam Roper, an English instructor at Whatcom and the owner of Sage and Sky Farm in Bellingham, and Whatcom’s IT Director Ward Naf have been teaming up for the past three years to bring farm-fresh produce to Whatcom’s campus. “We want to see more students signing up for it,” Naf said.

With a $225 payment, students and staff can receive a bin of vegetables fit to feed a family for about a week, every two weeks. Participants can pay $425 for a full share, which means they receive a box weekly. Whatcom staff members may sign up to make payments via payroll deduction.

Sage and Sky Farm will be accepting payments until May 1, so that they know how many seeds to plant before June, the start of the growing season. Students and faculty members interested in signing up can do so on Sage and Sky Farm’s website or by emailing

The boxes will be delivered on Wednesday afternoons to Cascade 125, where Naf checks off names as people come to pick up their produce.

This year the CSA boxes will include carrots, lettuce, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and more. Each box includes recipes as well as farm updates and varies in content from week to week.

Naf said one of his favorite things about the program is that he never knows exactly what to expect. “The included recipes help, especially when you’ve never cooked with that vegetable before,” he said.

Members will also have access to eggs, chicken, and lamb upon request. “Last year we did about 50 turkeys for Thanksgiving. We also had a few pigs,” Roper said.

Naf said he and Roper wanted to bring CSA to Whatcom in order to make it easier for students and faculty members to pick up their produce, as opposed to the traditional CSA system where participating members pick up their box from the farm.

Roper said eating locally is important because it can reduce your carbon footprint, and gives you a “rich and unique” connection to where you live. “From a ‘foody’ standpoint, it just tastes better,” he added.

Roper, his wife Andrea, and their two sons Jasper and Oliver, moved onto their 30-acre farm in 2009 when real-estate prices were low. “It was something I had always wanted to do,” he said.

Roper said that the farm had been abandoned for about 50 years when he and his family moved there, and that he had to rebuild their house and a few of the barns.

Now Roper and his family own sheep, chickens, geese, greenhouses, and fields for growing crops. He said that they grow more than 40 varieties of vegetables.

Naf said that he likes supporting a member of Whatcom’s own faculty. He said that Sustainable Connections, a non-profit network of local, independently owned Whatcom County businesses and supporters, holds an event each year where community members can meet farmers and make arrangements for CSA deliveries.

He said things have been going well with Sage and Sky Farms and he would like to continue working with them as long as they are willing.

Naf said that he likes knowing where is food comes from. “You wouldn’t just pick something random off the street and eat it,” he said.

In its mission statement Sage and Sky Farm says, “Our animals eat well and live well; our fruits and vegetables grow without harmful chemicals; and we all live happier and healthier lives.”

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