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Hastings CSA shifts perspective when it comes to eating local

After their season working together at Let Us Farm in Oakville, Wash., Hannah Keen and Will Boal took a road trip. They were at a diner in Sebastopol, Calif., trying to decide what move to take next, when Keen and Boal said it hit them.

With their experience at Let Us Farm,  Keen and Boal learned all facets of farming and decided to bring the idea back to Keen's hometown: Hastings, Neb.

"Let’s do this," Boal said. So, they uprooted from the west coast to start their own Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.

Finding land in Hastings was the easy part. Keen's family had property that could be turned from pasture to a sustainable farm. Keen and Boal settled into their home in Hastings and started planning for their first season in February 2012.

"We had to make a greenhouse, start a marketing campaign, start all of our transplants... figure out how we were going to irrigate, all in the span of three months," Boal said.

The whirlwind startup paid off and they have seen growth ever since.

26th Street Farm has expanded from one acre to one-and-a-half acres and are expecting to quadruple the number of members, from 20 in 2012 to a projected 80 for the 2014 season.

Keen said having an extra half acre and more experience has made a big difference in the amount of crops they are able to produce.

"We've really changed how we plant," she said. "We weren't really utilizing the full acre our first year. Now, we're to the point where we cap-out every piece of the property we can. It's very intensive. We replant beds multiple times a year."

As a CSA, 26th Street Farm relies on the support of the community for the success of their business. Each member receives a box of veggies, from June to November. This year a CSA membership costs $30 per week. CSA members serve as investors for the program and, in return, receive a crop share once a week throughout the summer and into the fall. At 26th Street Farm, shares include 6 to 12 produce items per week, which can range from herbs and leafy greens to heirloom tomatoes, depending on the season.

"I got in on the ground floor," said CSA Member, Kelsey Trausch of Grand Island, Neb. "I have two little boys and it was important to me that they know where their food comes from. It has become a new way to enjoy food with my family."

Keen and Boal create a true farm-to-table experience for CSA members and those who visit their stand at the Highland Park Farmers' Market in Hastings. 26th Street Farm takes food seriously.

"We really want to be educators when it comes to making good food choices," said Keen. "We've come a long way from our first year. We'd put something in our shares and people would have no clue what it was."

26th Street Farm provides CSA members them with somewhere to learn, taste, and make new things.

"We wanted to expose people to new things, teach them how to prepare them, teach them the nutritional aspect and get them to eat well," Keen said.

They provide nutritional information about crops people may not be familiar with, and interesting recipes each week on their website, Furthermore, they provide tips on how to preserve the food for as long as possible, ensuring less goes to waste.

"People don't realize how many nutrients are lost from the time something is harvested to the time it hits grocery store shelves," Keen said. "That's a huge benefit to our program."

People can enjoy produce from 26th Street Farm at Back Alley Bakery and Winestyles and the Bistro Below in Hastings, both of which use the fresh produce on their menus when it's in season.

Keen and Boal keep a sustainable farm using crop cover to preserve the soil, reducing the amount of fertilizer used. They raise chickens that work as natural waste eliminators, eating what would normally go into the compost pile; they eat grubs and other pests found around a garden.

26th Street Farm is not certified organic, due to the cost of licensing, but they adhere to the regulations set forth by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). They do not use herbicides and the pesticides and are on the approved OMRI List. To be a part of the OMRI list, products undergo a strict review, ensuring each product is certified organic. Explaining that to customers and members has been part of the startup experience for 26th Street Farm.

"There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to organic (certification)," Boal said. "We don't feel the label is as important. People understand once we get to show them and tell them about our growing practices."

To learn more about 26th Street Farm, or to register to become a CSA member, visit

About the Author

Open for Business, Central Nebraska
The Open for Business Staff strives to create the most useful content possible for businesses. Whether it's tips and tools available for owners to work smarter, not harder, a feature story highlighting amazing things happening with a Central Nebraska business or a fun tip here and there, you will find something that helps your business thrive at 


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