March 31, 2010 Post-Tribune

Farms Gearing Up for the Season

Photo by: Leslie Adkins/Post-Tribune

Leann Rennee Landgrebe, with Creme de la Crop, a community-supported agriculture farm in Valparaiso, pulls back a plastic covering that protects spring crops in the greenhouse. (Leslie Adkins/Post-Tribune)

Things are sprouting up all over at Creme de la Crop. Take a walk through the farm in Valparaiso and you'll find a greenhouse with celery, parsley, eggplant, peppers and tomatillos sprouting in black, dirt-encrusted flats.

Outside, Egyptian walking onion, sorrel, and a variety of lettuces are breaking through the soil.

"We start gearing up for the season as soon as the season ends," said Leann Renee Landgrebe, who owns Creme de la Crop.

The region's community supported agriculture, or CSA, farms are getting ready for the year. For a set price, the CSAs provide members with a weekly bounty of fresh produce in the summer and fall. What members get each week varies depending on the season on the weather; what is guaranteed is locally grown goodies, free of the long transports and plastic wrap found in the grocery stores.

Farms in Lowell and Wheatfield work together for Garden Lane CSA. Liz Aquino owns Lane's End Farm in Lowell; L.E. Garden is the farm in Wheatfield.

"The two farms together make up the veggies that go in the bags" distributed to six drop-off points in the region, Aquino said. She has been involved in the CSA for about 11 years.

Garden Lane provides hard-to-find vegetables and heirloom varieties not usually found at the store, typically items that are packed with more flavor, Aquino said.

The CSA started seeds in a greenhouse in late February or early March.

"We're also really busy getting equipment ready for the field and getting seeds for planting later," Aquino said, adding her CSA and others are doing a lot of paperwork, since they get the bulk of their members in the early spring.

Creme de la Crop started up six years ago and is now certified as organic by the United States Department of Agriculture. The farm will plant on 20 acres this season, three times more acreage than last year, and has 70 acres at its disposal.

Strawberry beds need to be cleared out, among other tasks, as the season moves along, Landgrebe said.

The heavy work, though, won't come until next month.

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