Nov. 19, 2004 Post-Tribune

Organic Farmer Expands Operation
By Mike Truax
Post-Tribune correspondent


VALPARAISO - Leann Stephens is taking her business venture in organic vegetables to a new level.

Last summer Stephens opened Crème de la Crop, an organic farm stand with a large stock of home-grown organic vegetables and herbs. The remains of this effort had hardly been plowed under at season's end when she began planning for next year.

Stephens is selling shares for her organic food co-op, limiting it to 60 shares the first year. "It is somewhat new to our area," Stephens said. "Families living on the West Coast have been relying on community-supported agriculture programs for years."

People prepay for vegetables that will be grown the following season. They are guaranteed a better price on fresh seasonal vegetables that they pick up weekly.

Stephens said shareholders will be able to pick up their vegetables from 1 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

She is offering two different share types - a standard market share and an epicurean, which has gourmet vegetables such as winter chickory, fava beans and okra - Stephens said.

Each type is divided into three different share plans - first harvest, second harvest and a winter squash program. Each category runs at a different time of the growing season, and over a different length of time, and is divided again into full shares or half shares, Stephens said.

A full share in all three programs will feed four people on a mixed diet or two vegetarians, Stephens said. Standard market full share prices are $40 for first harvest, $325 for second harvest and $40 for winter squash. Half shares are available at a lower cost. Epicurean first harvest is available for $60, epicurean second harvest for $425 and epicurean winter squash for $60.

Stephens will be farming 20 acres this year with six acres designated for the share program. The other 14 is for her wholesale restaurant and retail customers.


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