The average tomato travels over 1,200 miles before ending up on an Iowa plate for dinner. Lettuce travels over 2,000 miles, according to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture in Iowa. Jenn Miller and Cody Kilgore are attempting to decrease that journey to just five miles for residents in and around the Waukee area.
Clarion Sage, which is owned by Miller and Kilgore, is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm located two miles south of Waukee on the corner of Ashworth Road and U Place in Dallas County. This will be the first season for the ultra-local CSA with a goal of delivering non-hybrid, chemical-free, sustainably-grown produce to customers’ doorsteps on a weekly basis.
"Once you have the opportunity to eat fresh, you notice the remarkable difference between fresh and what you buy on the shelf," commented Kilgore.
The CSA plans to offer items like green beans, lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, corn, and herbs, among other things.
"Recent studies have shown that a lot of the nutrients have been depleted by the time people get the food," said Miller. "People might want to eat healthy, so they eat spinach. But what they might not know is that the spinach they’re eating is two or three weeks old and a lot of the benefits are gone."
Clarion Sage is currently accepting members to join for the upcoming season with spots already starting to fill up. Miller and Kilgore would like to serve about 25 families in the Waukee area with four members joining in the past week.
"We want to keep it in the Waukee area and form relationships with the people that live in our community. We want to tailor to them as much as possible," said Miller.
"There’s a big myth out there that eating healthy is expensive," commented Kilgore.
The cost to have produce delivered from the CSA will be $36 per week or $665 for 18 weeks.
"The average American family spends $180 per week on food,"
said Miller. "We’ll provide enough produce to feed a family of four (each week). But we’re not doing things like dried beans or high-protein items."
Miller and Kilgore each have extensive backgrounds in agriculture. Kilgore is originally from the Kansas City area and has worked in various agronomic fields for over 20 years before settling in Iowa and raising two daughters.
"I decided it was a better place to raise my girls and stayed," Kilgore said. "We moved to the Waukee area for the school system. When this opportunity came up it was perfect."
Miller is from Evanston, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and has worked in Iceland, Costa Rica, and California as well as various farms in Iowa and Missouri. At one time, Miller was a food blogger and recipe columnist for Martha Stewart. She also currently works for the Iowa Food Cooperative, based in the Merle Hay Mall.
"I was in Iowa because of work and people," commented Miller. "I wanted a change from the Chicago area."
Miller gained growing experience in other countries through the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms program, which is a network that connects people interested in learning about farming with small farms. While tracing family history in Iceland, Miller worked on a small dairy farm and also spent time in the city garden of Reykjavik (capital city of Iceland).
"That was great to see the variety of plants and work with master gardeners," commented Miller.
Miller and Kilgore are passionate about growing and the benefits of community supported agriculture.
"It’s better tasting food because it’s fresher," Miller said. "The community knows where it is coming from and form a connection. The kids know it’s coming from a farm and not just a grocery store. I would also say that people care about their food, but they may not be able to make it to the farmers market every week. People can say they want to buy organic, they want to buy local, but you can’t just walk into Hy-Vee and get that."
The Clarion Sage name has a deeply-rooted meaning in multiple ways. Clarion is the type of soil on the farm but is also the hometown of Miller’s grandfather, who was born and raised on a farm in Clarion, Iowa. Sage is an herb that was one of the first seedlings planted on the CSA but sage is also defined as having, showing, or indicating profound wisdom. Miller and Kilgore intend to use sage advice and wisdom from the past by using organic, low-impact methods of farming.
Produce from Clarion Sage will not replace trips to the grocery store but is an affordable alternative for busy families interested in fresh, locally-grown produce.
"You may still have to shop at the grocery store or co-op. Our goal is that they won’t have to buy produce there. We’re hoping to provide the produce needs," added Miller. "Yeah, we don’t have sour cream here," laughed Kilgore.
For more information, visit http://www.clarionsage.com.