Saturday, July 23, 2011

Urban Acres Produce: Helping Local Farmers, Inspiring Local Chefs

Today's share, full of squash, kale, broccoli and green beans! So excited!
In many of my recipe posts, I reference items that came from my produce share that week. To many of our readers this may be a completely foreign concept so I wanted to take a minute and talk a little bit about Urban Acres and what it's like being a part of a produce co-op.

My husband's family has deep family roots in the farming industry. His grandparents on both sides of his family were farmers and years before Robert was born, his father farmed cotton, peanuts and soy beans in Seminole, Texas. This personal connection to farming in Texas was a big part of what drew me to join Urban Acres produce co-op.

Urban Acres is based in Oak Cliff in Dallas, Texas and, through the efforts of its founder, has partnered with many farms all over the great state of Texas to provide locally grown, organic produce every week to its partners. The heart and soul of Urban Acres is the belief that the best produce is that which is in season, grown organically and purchased locally. Not only does food taste best when in season, but the organic growth process and local purchases reduce the impact on the environment.

My first produce share with UA back in April
Purchasing produce cooperatively is not as complex as it sounds. What it means is that as a co-op member you commit to purchasing a share every two weeks that is pre-selected based on what is in season and available from partner farms. Through the commitment of its members, Urban Acres is able to purchase produce directly from the farms at a reasonable rate. The challenge for co-op members is certainly the lack of control you have over the selection of produce presented to you each time you pick up your share. I've come to really enjoy the challenge and often receive inspiration for my dishes based on what is in my share.

If you live in Dallas and this sounds like something you might be interested in, please go to their website and learn more about them. To sign up you must fill out a membership form, pay a $50 annual membership fee, and a one time $14 bin fee. Then every two weeks you will pay $30 for a half share (about 15 lbs) or $50 for a full share (about 30 lbs). Robert and I get a half share and it's perfect for our family of two, I imagine as our family grows we will eventually opt for the full share, but for now the half is just right. There are pick up locations in the Park Cities, Lakewood, Uptown, Irving, Addison, Oak Cliff, McKinney and West Richardson currently which means you likely won't have to travel far to participate.

One last thing and I'll get off my soap box. As many of you know we are currently in the middle of a pretty serious drought here in Texas. The impact of so little rain is really hard on small farmers as they are forced to rely on irrigation systems to keep their crops producing. Urban Acres has an article on their blog this week that shows how co-ops, like Urban Acres, have helped many of these small farms stay afloat during these difficult times due to the commitment of its members. We are proud to do our part to help them provide for their families and cultivate the land of this great state. I hope some of you will join me. If you have any questions about joining please leave a comment and I'll be happy to share my insight.

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