City slickers in Chile’s high-velocity capital now have a new way to eat fresh organic produce in the heart of Santiago’s cosmopolitan downtown: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Santiago CSAs let members pick up baskets of organic produce at spots around the city, brimming with seasonal treats like arugula, tomatoes, watermelons or chard. After the annual membership fee, the weekly baskets themselves cost nothing.
The CSA model landed in Chile decades ago, but a recent revival kicked off an exceptionally successful project in May 2011 at a small urban farm operated by the Huellas Verdes collective. The theory behind the farm model began in the 1960s in Japan, Germany and Switzerland, later picking up momentum in the United States, Canada and other countries around the globe where people wanted a closer – and healthier – connection to their food.
Apart from assuring 100 percent organic produce, Huellas Verdes encourages its members to visit the actual growing site and help sow, weed and harvest their own food.
“The idea is for each family to come and take charge of their own plot, and teach their children how to grow vegetables,” said Claudia Cossio, who started Huellas Verdes with Gabriela Zúñiga. The two young agronomists started with 55 families and now serve more than 70, a 27 percent increase in under a year.
Huellas Verdes grows the food on 2.5 acres (1 hectare) in Colina, on the northern edge of the capital, renting the land from old-time farmer Rolando Rojas. “They had the theory, but I have lived a lifetime doing this,” said Rojas, who now collaborates on the CSA project. Like many farmers in the metropolitan area, Rojas sells his produce in a stall at La Vega, Santiago’s iconic, labyrinthine marketplace.
Huellas Verdes estimates that 80 percent of their clients live in the cosmopolitan neighborhood of Providencia.
“If more people sign up,” said Cossio, “we’re going to rent another hectare.”