Viva Farms file

A field of snow peas grows in June 2020 at Rain Shadow Farm at Viva Farms west of Burlington.

For years, Viva Farms has sold weekly boxes of fresh, local produce directly to consumers, including many in Skagit County.

But the nonprofit is making a change this year — not in the berries, sugar snap peas and other organic produce it offers, but in the ability of customers to help those in need.

Viva Farms has switched to sliding-scale pricing in hopes it will allow low-income families greater access to the community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes it sells from June to November.

Customers who have larger incomes can opt to pay more, while those who make less can pay less. Additionally, customers can pay to donate boxes to those unable to afford them.

Viva Farms Sales and Education Manager Katherine Myrvold said in previous years the organization used a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to allow it to sell CSA boxes at a lower price to those who receive assistance through SNAP. This year, the grant ended.

“We had strategic talks about how to move forward — if we’d offer the discount even though the grant ended,” she said. “We looked at other models, we looked at other CSAs we respected throughout the country. We talked about how we might be able to make it work. It’s an experiment to see if we can do it.”

Myrvold said improving access to nutritious food is among the goals of the organization, which connects new farmers with resources to help them get started.

“It’s tied around goals around food access and equity. We’re trying to think about access and fairness in all aspects of our work,” Myrvold said. “This is a great way for us to practice what we preach.”

Viva Farms’ CSA program offers produce to its customers at drop-off locations in Skagit County, as well as Bellingham and Seattle, each Wednesday in the summer and fall. Customers pick up the boxes, which come in two sizes and can include produce ranging from cucumbers and green beans to herbs and strawberries.

The program is a boon for the farmers the organization supports, Myrvold said, giving them a reliable customer base and influx of cash at the beginning of the growing season.

The customers like it too, she added.

“Last year was definitely the highest number of subscribers we had. My sense is there was a connection between everything that was going on and interest in CSA. Folks appreciated they could pick up a box of vegetables each week. It felt like a safer way to access fresh produce. A lot of people said they never tried one before,” she said.

The number of families in the program last year fluctuated between 300 and 375.

Prices this year will range from $300 over the course of the season for SNAP recipients to $1,200 for the higher-income option. There are two sizes of boxes, as well as various price points on the new sliding scale.

Those interested can find out more at vivafarms.org/csa or by calling Myrvold at 360-969-7191, ext. 4.

Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @goskagit, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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