The Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainability outside Verona has been helping farmers of color, especially those with Hmong and Latino backgrounds, with the process of starting CSAs, gaining organic certification and extending the growing season with such innovations as hoop houses.
Among the farmers associated with the Farley Center CSA are Cheu and Chia Vang, who last year received organic certification for their farm outside Jefferson, Wis. It's believed that the Vangs are the first Hmong farmers in the state to receive such certification.
For organic certification, the land has to have been free from prohibited substances for three years. The certifiers look at the farm's books and planting plans, says the center's farm incubator facilitator, Janet Parker.
"They ask the farmers to write about what they have used," says Parker. "It does involve self-reporting."
The center is helping farmers whose native language is not English navigate the process and the paperwork. Each spring since 2011, it has held a series of workshops with organic certifier Mark Geistlinger to explain the process, with Spanish and Hmong interpreters. "And our staff does meet with farmers one-on-one, to assist with bookkeeping and record keeping," says Parker. The center is also investigating getting organic certification for its own incubator farm land.
This is the center's third year marketing the Farley Center CSA Farms, an umbrella term for a handful of self-managed farms affiliated with the center, and also the center's Spring Rose Growers Cooperative. Parker says they hope to nearly double their subscribers for 2013.
Farmers grow familiar North American vegetables as well as some special Asian and Latino herbs and veggies. While it might sound early for CSA signup, Parker notes that knowing how many subscribers they'll have helps farmers with their planting decisions. Signup starts Feb. 1; those interested should call 608-228-9097 or see farleycenter.org.