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Community Supported Agriculture is an idea that has recently taken off in the Barnes County area, allowing consumers to buy local produce directly from the grower.
CSAs operate by selling shares of their products to the public. In the case of Llama Trax Gardens near Valley City, the product is vegetables, fruit, and herbs straight from the garden.
In other words, subscribers pay an up-fron fee to the Hansens, who in turn grow fresh produce which they divide up between subscribers and distribute several times during the growing season.
Owned by Scott and Sandy Hansen, Last Llama Trax produced enough fresh produce for 40 subscribers. Scott is the grower on about five acres of land. He produces enough sweet corn, watermelons, chard, cabbage, green beans, tomatoes, peppers and other fresh vegetables to provide subscribers with fresh producers throughout the growing season. He does the planting, the harvest, and packs produce in boxes for pick-up.
Scott likes to hand people their boxes.
â€śThatâ€™s where we talk about food, and whatâ€™s coming next week.
Sandy publishes a newsletter for subscribers that includes news from the farm, photos, and recipes for some of the produce Scott has packed into suscribersâ€™ boxes. The newsletters also have storage tips for produce.
Scott, formerly a sales and marketing professional, got the idea for Llama Trax Gardens several years ago when he found himself unemployed from his sales job.
Always a gardener, he was looking for a way to turn his passion into a way to make a living.
â€śIâ€™ve always gardened. Everywhere weâ€™ve moved, I always went out and dug in the dirt.â€ť Scott said.
When he was unemployed, he found comfort in working in the garden. â€śAt the beginning of the day, the garden is dirty, and when you get done the garden is clean.â€ť
He started selling his produce three years ago at the local farmerâ€™s market, but found that the income wasnâ€™t sufficient. He did learn from the experience, though, and through a contact he acquired enough rhubarb to start selling it to a winery.
Scott started doing research about growing healthy food,â€ť and the words CSA kept popping up,â€ť he said.
The produce grown at Llama Trax is not certified organic, but Scott uses organic practices wherever possible. He uses no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers.
The gardens got their name when an acquaintance was retiring and wanted to give away some llamas, so Scott and Sandy took them.
â€śThey have a personality like a cat. Theyâ€™re like a cat, theyâ€™re really curious but they donâ€™t need a lot of attention,â€ť said Scott of the llamas. â€śAnd theyâ€™re unbelievably accurate spitters,â€ť
The llamas at Llama Trax Gardens also provide fertilizer for the gardens and protection to the Hansenâ€™s other animals from coyotes.
The Hansens plan to expand Llama Trax Gardens in 2013 and plan to accept 80 subscribers.
The subscription fee is $575 for a full-share and $375 for a half-share. A full share will generally supply a family of 3-4 with fresh produce, depending on individual eating habits. Each share will contain anywhere from 5-10 various vegetables, herbs and fruits.
Exact days, hours and location of drop-offs to be announced. The season will begin the first half of June. For membership information call (701) 845-1191 or (701)-840-8761. Information can also be found at www,\.llamatraxgardens,.com.