Opportunity Sprouts at Buttercup Farms
By Patricia Hayse Haller
Central Contra Costa County residents looking for fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables are in luck. A new community supported agriculture (CSA) project is under way in Clayton. Once the summer harvest starts in June, project managers at Buttercup Farms Garden expect to be offering 25 produce shares per week at a cost of $20 per share, with options for weekly, biweekly, or monthly participation. Subscribers can pick up their shares at Diablo View Middle School in Clayton or at Walnut Creek United Methodist Church, 1543 Sunnyvale Avenue in Walnut Creek.
But new opportunities at Buttercup Farms go far beyond garden-fresh produce. For over 25 years, this unique nonprofit on Morgan Territory Road has been helping people facing life’s challenges to help themselves.
“We provide a place for people to live and work while they are going through a transitional period in their lives,” says farm manager Jorie Hanson. “We’ve had recovering addicts, the elderly, foster children, people with disabilities—a whole variety of people.” Some live and work on the farm in Clayton. Others live at the organization’s facility in Angels Camp and volunteer at the Mercantile Café and Bakery there. All are offered whatever counseling and support they need and the freedom to explore new life skills in a nurturing outdoor setting.
Pictured: Buttercup Farms garden manager Gary Crandall in thegeodesic dome greenhouse. At left: The new raised beds being constructed last summer. (Photos courtesy of Buttercup Farms)
The Clayton property, a former horse farm, has had a one-acre garden on site for years. In the 1990s a for-profit farmer leased the garden from the nonprofit and ran it as a certified organic CSA. When Hanson and residents took over the venture, they struggled with rotting raised beds and invading gophers, barely growing enough produce to supply themselves and a few friends.
That all changed in March 2010 when Gary Crandall, a market gardener trained at UC Santa Cruz, joined Buttercup Farms as garden manager. He rebuilt 22 of the raised beds, lining them with wire mesh to keep out gophers. And he set out to restore organic certification. Last summer, produce from the garden was on the menu at both the Angels Camp Mercantile Café and La Veranda Restaurant in Clayton.
Now, thanks to the $6,000 raised through a Kickstarter campaign (see kickstarter.com), the remaining raised beds have been rebuilt and Buttercup Farms Garden is ready to offer CSA shares. The program will benefit all parties involved: Participating Contra Costa residents will get truly local organic produce. And the increased visibility Buttercup Farms gains should help the nonprofit expand its mission into the local community.
“What we are doing is trying to make a functioning production garden that involves people from the community,” says Crandall. “Before we were doing wholesale, but to fulfill our mission, we need to teach the value of organic gardening. We thought a CSA would be a better way of doing that.”
Crandall talks about a partnership with Diablo View Middle School, and other community programs, but like the tiny seedlings in the geodesic dome greenhouse at one end of Buttercup Farms Garden, Crandall’s plans are only just taking root. By June, those seedlings will have grown and moved into the new raised beds. And, Crandall and Hanson hope, the Buttercup Farms family will have grown to include CSA shareholders. •
To learn more or to join the CSA program, visit https://www.buttercupfarms.org/ or contact Jorie: jorie(at)buttercupfarms(dot)org or 925.524.0316.
Patricia Hayse Haller is a freelance writer based in Pleasanton.