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In A Valley Bursting With Produce, Fruit & Veggie Subscription Boxes Struggle To Survive

Kerry Klein
Valley Public Radio
Organic farmers Vernon Peterson, left, and David Obermiller, as well as geographer Ryan Galt of UC Davis, explain some of the benefits of CSAs and the challenges to sustaining them.

Here in one of world’s most productive agricultural belts, we have lots of potential for community-supported agriculture—or CSAs—in which consumers connect directly with local farmers by subscribing to weekly boxes of fresh farm goods.

While many small-scale CSAs still operate in the San Joaquin Valley, some of the more prominent ones have been forced to shut down—including Fresno-based OOOOBY, a long-time service with thousands of subscribers that closed its doors very suddenly in November.

To better understand the challenges of operating local CSAs, FM89’s Kerry Klein sat down with organic farmers David Obermiller of Fresno and Vernon Peterson of Kingsburg, as well as Ryan Galt, a professor of human ecology at UC Davis. Obermiller runs Harvest Fields Organic CSA out of Fresno, which is currently on hiatus while moving to a new property. Peterson opened the interview by explaining why his former CSA, Abundant Harvest Organics, had to fold in 2018 after 10 years of operation.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.