Urban Grains is officially open for business!

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April 22nd, 2009 by Martin

earlywheat

After many months of hard work, planning and coordination, I’m delighted to announce that Urban Grains, Vancouver’s first community supported agriculture program for grain, is now underway. (Edit: The timing of this announcement feels rather serendipitous. Shortly after writing this post we were contacted by Jim, our grain farmer, to let us know that he had just today finished planting the last of the wheat.)

URBAN GRAINS: THE DETAILS

There will be exactly 200 shares, each consisting of approximately 20 kg of whole wheat flour, milled from three types of wheat: winter wheat, Triticale and hard red spring. All of the grain will be grown locally by one farmer, Jim Grieshaber-Otto, and his family at Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz, B.C. Roughly 100 acres in size, the farm has been organically managed for years, but Jim is currently in the process of seeking organic certification, meaning the official status of the grain will technically be “transitional organic.” (While we believe the CSA model, which fosters a direct relationship between producers and consumers, renders the issue of certification moot, Jim said that this year’s program gave him the “kick in the pants” that he needed to finally seek certification.)

Processsing/Distribution

After the grain has been harvested in the late summer/early fall, it will be cleaned on-site at Jim’s farm and then shipped to Anita’s Mill in Chilliwack for milling and bagging. It will then continue on to Vancouver where it will be dropped off at a central, convenient location (still to be determined) for pick-up by CSA members.

Cost

Each share will cost $80 ($1.80/lb), plus an additional $10 to raise money for purchasing cleaning equipment for the CSA, bringing the total to $90 per share. A full $1/lb of every purchase will be paid directly to Jim, the grower. A per-pound rate like that is practically unheard of in the grain industry. Given that this program is a pilot project supplying a product that is nearly impossible to find in Vancouver at the retail level, we think that this price is quite fair.

We’ve even done some comparison shopping: bulk, organic, non-local whole wheat is currently selling for roughly $1.99 per lb or $88.44 for 20 kg. If you’re purchasing different kinds of wheat in smaller, bagged sizes like we are providing, you can easily pay more than $120. That means that for the price of a share in Urban Grains members get organic, local flour, for about $1.50 more than you would pay at the store for bulk, AND they are supporting regional grain growing by the inclusion of the equipment fee. We are very proud to be offering such competitive prices.

For anyone who cannot afford the $90 or is unsure of their ability to fully use 20 kg of milled flour (remember, 10 kg is typically the largest size one finds in a grocery store), we highly recommend they split the share with another friend or family.

Also Included

Included in the CSA package will be a certificate indicating the member’s involvement in Vancouver’s first grain CSA, the opportunity to visit Cedar Isle Farm in Agassiz during the summer to meet Jim and see the grain in person (additional, reasonable costs will apply for transportation), as well as on-going updates from us at Urban Grains regarding the progress of the CSA throughout the year on this blog.

THE CSA MODEL

CSA stands for community supported agriculture. We selected this model because we believe it is ideal for fostering a strong consumer/producer relationship — something severely lacking in conventional agricultural systems — and for supporting local agriculture. This is especially true in regards to local grain – production in B.C. has fallen dramatically in the past half-century and our support is needed to make grain farming a viable option.

It is important to be aware that the CSA model has a degree of risk built into it. As a customer paying the share cost before a finished product is delivered, an investment is being made in the entire process. It is quite possible that because of uncooperative weather shares will not measure a full 20 kg following a sub-par harvest. For example, in Creston, BC’s 2008 grain CSA the recipients expected to receive 100 lbs of grain, but ended up receiving 81 lbs. This risk is inherent to the model – by accepting this condition you are sharing in the uncertainty that farmers face every day as they watch the skies.

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NOTE: As we made clear at the outset, CSA shares are being offered to mailing list subscribers on a first come first serve basis according to the order in which they signed up. Sales are not open to the public at this time, so please do not contact us to sign up if you have not received an email with a specific offer to buy.

It’s been a great deal of work to make this all happen, so we are obviously very proud to finally announce the launch of the program. Thank you for your interest in the CSA and local grain — your tremendous support has been truly inspiring.

2 Responses to “Urban Grains is officially open for business!”

  1. GrainGod Says:

    The intermixing of Kg and lbs might be confusing for some.
    Instead of penalizing the first shareholders with a $10 hit why not make it a $10 refundable onetime share purchase/member fee. Or make it so that repeat shareholders get a $10 discount in future years and first time shareholders pay a one-time registration fee or similar. New members whos membership lapse must repay – thus generating some income to put towards thresher machine maintenance costs and admin costs.

  2. Ayla Says:

    Thanks for the feedback, GG. Working with both kilograms and pounds was difficult for us, too, at times.

    The reason that both are used is that we tried to present the membership details in the most relatable way – to us that meant telling you how much flour you’ll be getting in kilos, because you’re likely used to seeing 2, 5 and 10kg bags in the store, but to present the cost breakdown in dollars per pound because if you buy in bulk, you probably know that number best.

    You’re right that this can be a tad confusing, though. You should see our excel sheets!

    As for the equipment fee – we feel that most of our members are going to be supportive of it, and the sign-up rate so far seems to confirm this. If we had incorporated that $10 fee component into the total price and simply told you that the cost of a share was $90, I doubt that anyone would have questioned it. As is, we’re trying to share our experiences as we develop the Urban Grains idea, so that others will be able to replicate this in the future. We want members to be able to look at the share price and know that $10 of their money is going to purchasing important equipment for farmers in the region.

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