She left corporate world for life on the farm

Click here to read more about CSA farms in Minnesota.

by Joni Astrup

Associate editor

Nancy Welty happily describes herself as a corporate drop-out.

For years she worked as an accountant and management consultant, and spent a lot of time on airplanes traveling for work.

“After 20 years of that I said, ‘I want to be outside,’” Welty recalled with a laugh.

Today, she’s living the dream.

Romaine at the Culinary Delights Farm in Big Lake Township.

Welty and her husband, Tom, own and operate Culinary Delights Farm in Big Lake Township. It is a Community Supported Agriculture or CSA farm. People buy shares each season and, once a week for 18 weeks, get fresh fruits and vegetables grown by Welty and others.

Welty likens it to a subscription, paid in full at the beginning of the season.

Shares cost $600 for a full share or $400 for a half one. A full share equals about two grocery bags of produce a week from the third week of June to the third week of October. The produce is delivered to 14 different sites, including one in Elk River, where the subscriber picks it up.

Welty has found that people buy a CSA share for a variety of reasons. Subscribers with young children, for instance, are often very concerned about pesticides and herbicides. “They don’t want the chemicals,” she said.

Convenience is another factor for some. One woman with cancer who bought a CSA share told Welty she wanted to have a healthier diet but wasn’t feeling well enough for lengthy trips to the grocery store. Being able to pick up fresh produce every week in one stop was much easier for her.

For Shelly Westover of Elk River, it was a desire to launch some healthier habits.

She has signed up to participate in the Culinary Delights Farm CSA for the first time this year.

“I want to get my family and myself into healthy habits,” said Westover, who has a husband and three children. “Parents are a teaching tool for the next generation and I want my kids to learn it right.”

CSA farm has grown rapidly

Culinary Delights Farm has been a CSA farm since 2006. Welty said the business has grown rapidly. This season she has 75 full shares and 50 half shares available. About two-thirds are already sold and she said they could all be gone by May 1.

Nancy Welty grows a variety of herbs at her CSA farm, including thyme.

While Culinary Delights Farm is not certified organic, all of the fruits and vegetables are grown without herbicides or pesticides. Compost, cow or chicken manure and things like seaweed extracts are used for fertilizer.

Welty said becoming certified organic is expensive, and would be something both she and the other operators she gets produce from would all have to do for Culinary Delights Farm to be officially organic.

She grows much of the farm’s bounty on a half-acre plot near her home. There she tends peppers, beans, peas, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, chives, garlic chives, green onions and all herbs except dill.

Other things like tomatoes and potatoes are grown at other sites.

One of the benefits of that arrangement is Welty doesn’t have to be as concerned about crop failures since not everything is located in one spot.

All in all, her venture into CSA farming has worked out well and, since leaving corporate life, she hasn’t looked back.

She said gardening and being a CSA farm has been wonderful.

One of the things she most enjoys is the interaction with her customers.

“I really enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

What you get in a CSA share

Here’s what the owner of a full CSA share in Culinary Delights Farm received one week in July 2011.

•12 ears corn

•2 bunches of beets

•1 bunch of yellow onions

•1 bunch of red onions

•12 new potatoes

•12 new Yukon gold potatoes

•6 carrots

•6 summer squash

•6 zucchini

•4 cucumber chubs

•2 bunches green onions

•8 bell peppers

•4 roma tomatoes

•a bag of basil