Growing up, my family was members of a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm so the concept was familiar to me and something that had been on my radar for awhile, moreso as we made the transition to eating a primarily plant-based diet at home. Caleb and I had discussed joining a CSA locally but never committed — until we serendipitously met Kyle & Lauren : )
I want to introduce you to our beloved farmers on the blog today … and also to the world of CSA! I get a lot of questions about this whenever I post on social media, so my hope is to create a post that would have all the information anyone could need in one place! And of course, who better to tell you about CSAs and the local community we are a part of than the farmers themselves?! So without further adieu, I introduce you to Kyle & Lauren : )
An Interview with Wisconsin CSA Raleigh’s Hillside Farm
- Tell us ALL about Raleigh’s Hillside Farm!
Raleigh’s Hillside Farm is a ten-acre, certified organic produce farm located about 45 minutes south of Madison in the beautiful rolling hills of Rock County. The vast majority of our produce goes into our 18-week CSA program delivered to our 350 members in Evansville, Stoughton, Mount Horeb, and Madison. Whatever is left goes to restaurant kitchens across Madison.
My husband Kyle and I started our farm in 2013 on land rented from my parents. The two of us met while attending the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. We were studying soil science and rural sociology, respectively. We spent our days learning to cook and our nights discussing the environment, agriculture, local food systems, and a better world. We fell in love quickly. As we approached graduation, we couldn’t imagine an existence where we weren’t always a team. We decided we wanted to spend our lives building something together. Neither of us ever considered a career in farming separately but together, it felt right. We wanted to create a small, diverse farm that connected people to their food.
Our vision at Raleigh’s Hillside Farm is to build a better world and a better food system. We envision a world where people enjoy the food that nourishes them, have healthy relationships to it, and understand the ways in which it was produced. A world where agriculture works within the natural ecosystem and does not cause harm. A world where farming is a respected and desirable career because farm owners and employees earn a fair, living wage and feel empowered in their marketplace. A world where healthy nourishing food is the foundation of a strong local community and economy.
It’s been such a whirlwind and a gift building this business and feeding our local community for the past eight years.
2. What is a CSA?
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and no one defines CSA better than our friends at FairShare CSA Coalition so I’ll share their words:
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way to buy local food directly from a farmer. You purchase a “share” from a farm and become a farm “member.” The farm delivers a box of vegetables to you regularly throughout the growing season. You choose the pick-up location from a list of options the farm provides.
Members of a CSA sign up with their farm in advance of the growing season, which helps farms plan for the season ahead and cover the initial annual costs of farm operation. Membership usually includes bonus benefits in addition to the produce such as a newsletter that teaches you how to use the produce and on-farm events.”
When we began dreaming up our business, we knew it was CSA or nothing. We love how CSA brings a community and a farmer together for a common good. The consumer invests in their local food system and economy by committing to a relationship with one farm and in return, the farmer does the best job they can to grow exceptional produce for their CSA members while educating them on what the vegetables are and how to use them. We love the transformational power of CSA. We believe it not only creates lasting change in our food system, it also revolutionizes the way people eat by helping them to cook more and choose healthier foods.
Our CSA is a little unique because we offer our members products from other local producers we love in addition to our CSA vegetables. When you sign up for our CSA, you not only get 18 weeks of produce from our farm, you also get access to other fun goodies like mushrooms, apples, salami, locally milled flour, etc. We love helping our CSA members not only eat more vegetables, but also have more access to local products from their own community and region.
3. Can anyone reading this sign up for your CSA? If so, how?
Of course! But not right now. Ha! We officially open our 2021 CSA in January 2021 and the best way to make sure you don’t miss out (we only have 100 spots remaining for next year!) is to join our waiting list. You’ll get an email when our CSA sign-up period opens.
4. You also grow hemp and sell your own products — please tell us more!
We do grow hemp and sell our own hemp product! In 2018, after hemp production became legal in Wisconsin, we decided to try adding a hundred hemp plants to our operation. We called it the “grand experiment” because we had no experience growing outdoor cannabis, no industry connections, and there weren’t a lot of processing facilities available. We grew it anyway because we are both avid users (and lovers) of CBD oil and thought if we could figure out how to grow an excellent product, the rest would take care of itself.
We dreamed of growing high quality hemp to be processed into a high quality, CBD-rich hemp oil that could be sold to our local community to help them with the things we’d struggled with ourselves: things like anxiety, insomnia, recovery from long days that tired our muscles, and even providing relief to an arthritic dog. We knew CBD could be beneficial to so many people in our local community but that they were never going to buy a random CBD Oil off the shelf; they wanted to buy a product from someone they knew and could trust. Long story short, our first hemp harvest was a wonderful success and we did find a processor to turn our beautifully trimmed hemp flower into a 1000 mg CBD oil! That oil is now available for purchase on our hemp website wilocalhemp.com. Right now we just have the one product available, but we are doing some indoor growing this winter and hoping to have smokable flower for sale next spring!
5. I clearly love Raleigh’s but I also LOVE you guys! To conclude this post, let us know — who are Kyle & Lauren?!
We’re just two Wisconsin natives trying to build our dreams and make the world a better place. It’s really that simple. We have a million ideas and a million dreams, and we’re just trying to take them one step at a time.
Outside of farm life and our million and one ideas, we have a cozy little home in Evansville, Wisconsin where we love snuggling up with a warm cup of coffee, a great TV show, and our two dogs and two cats. We are obsessed with Wisconsin scenery and love to get outside as much as possible (even though most of our career is spent outdoors). In summer, we spend a lot of time hiking and biking, and love getting out on the water in our canoe. Kyle loves to fish. I try to just sit still and read (and not scare all the fish away). Getting outside in winter is less of a priority. Instead we try to spend much of our winter traveling (in non-COVID times of course).
We are very close with our friends and family, and love to get together and host parties (again, in more exciting times). It’s a pretty beautiful life.
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