Social distance, social solidarity, and supporting our local food system

We’re living in strange times. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and relate to each other. This time of upheaval has also been a time of reckoning. Social distancing measures are an act of social solidarity. The time apart has highlighted how we need each other more than ever. And the chaos all around us has asked big questions about our global food systems, the capitalist structures we live in, and what we can do as individuals to make big impacts in our local communities.

As of March 16, 2020, hua foundation closed its office and halted its public programs as part of measures to flatten the curve. While in isolation we’ve been hard at work organizing in the community, doing what we can to support our collaborators in a time of massive uncertainty and upheaval. We are continuing to work with Brave Child Farm to steward our annual Choi Box Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program this year. And we’re making adjustments in how the program rolls out to maximize safety for our members and farmers.

Becoming a member of the CSA program this year will have big ripple effects that extend beyond your own kitchen. You’ll be supporting two local farmers whose families and children depend on the success of their harvests and the support of their CSA members. Members will buy CSA shares from Brave Child Farm, a small local business that, like other businesses in the region, is facing exceptional precarity in these times of economic uncertainty. And you’ll have the assurance of 16 weeks of fresh, local produce of exceptional quality, delivered directly from their farm to our weekly neighbourhood depot—a promise of steady abundance in a time of scarcity and unknowns.

We’ll be managing the weekly CSA depot differently this year than in previous years, when weekly stops at the depot were also anticipated weekly occasions to meet and chat with other members. This year, our depot will take place on Thursday evenings in the Chinatown/Strathcona neighbourhood. We will continue to practice physical distancing and vigilant hygiene practices. We will follow recommended hand washing procedures with soap while maintaining physical distance with members at weekly depots. Instead of the farmers’ market-style CSA depot that we have held in previous years, we will provide CSA members with a new clean, dry, recyclable box containing their CSA share each week to minimize the presence of exposed surfaces and the creation of shared high-touch areas.

Now more than ever, we need to support our neighbours and our local food system. Our CSA program often reaches maximum capacity fast. Act now to secure your spot this year.

We currently do not have any shares remaining for CSA Summer 2020.

Please join our waitlist by completing this form here

  • We will accept waitlist requests in the order they are received. 
  • Our season is expected to start in mid-June, so you will hear from us by then if any spots become available.

Questions about the CSA?

What is the Choi Box?

The Choi Box is hua foundation’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Hua started it in 2015 to support Asian diasporic farmers in the Metro Vancouver area. In five seasons of stewarding the Choi Box CSA, we have had the pleasure of working with various farmers to bring fresh, organic-practice, and culturally relevant produce to CSA members picking up weekly shares in Chinatown.

Why Choi? 

Choi (菜) is a Chinese word for vegetables. While most people may be familiar with bok choi or pak choi, there exists a beautiful variety of choi that can be grown locally in and around Metro Vancouver (see our Sprouting Choi Guide for details). 

The Choi Box is hua foundation’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Hua started it in 2015 to support Asian diasporic farmers in the Metro Vancouver area. In five seasons of stewarding the Choi Box CSA, we have had the pleasure of working with various farmers to bring fresh, organic-practice, and culturally relevant produce to CSA members picking up weekly shares in Chinatown.

Chinese farmers have been growing food along the delta region of BC’s Lower Mainland since the late 1800s. Discriminatory labour laws and practices at the time meant that people of Chinese ancestry were prohibited from working in more professionalized sectors. Manual labour—including work in farming, laundries, and restaurants—marked some of the few sectors in which they were permitted to work. 

Despite the systemic discrimination and explicit racism set to deter them, Chinese farmers produced up to 90% of BC’s vegetables by the 1920s. These vegetables, however, were typically familiar to European immigrants, such as tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, lettuce, radishes and potatoes. It wasn’t until the late 1900s that Chinese farmers began commercial production of vegetables that would have had a presence in their own home kitchens, such as bok choi, gai lan, and other chois.

The Choi Box CSA program is a celebration of the legacy of Chinese farmers on this land and their continual presence in shaping our food system. Each season, we partner with a farm to bring CSA members a unique selection of Asian vegetables that speak to this history.

The teikei (提携) system in Japan is a model of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) that has been around since the 1960s. Post WWII industrialization in Japan included the so-called “green revolution” that promised increased food production with the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and heavy mechanization. The resulting devastation to landscapes and human health sparked interest in alternative ways of engaging with food, the environment, and economic exchange. The teikei system set up a direct distribution system based on ecologically responsible practices that emphasized mutual assistance, democratic management and co-learning.

Around the same time in the United States, Dr. Booker T. Whatley, an African-American horticulturist and professor, began promoting the concept of a “clientele membership club” for accessing fresh, locally grown foods. Members paid an up-front fee to support a farmer’s incurring costs throughout the growing season, and members would harvest the produce themselves. It enabled the farmer to plan production, anticipate demand, and have a guaranteed market for their goods. 

Today, the CSA model has been popularized, each unique to its context to connect consumers to farmers and build sustained relationships. This model provides the producer and consumer to make an exchange at fair prices and wages, and it allows both parties to share the risks and rewards of farming.

We are excited to be working with Brave Child Farm for a 2nd season in 2020. 

Yuko Suda is a professional civil engineer who decided to start farming during the growing season in order to do her part in fighting climate change, supporting the local ecology, and spending more time with her children. Yuko completed the Farming Practicum at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of British Columbia in 2017. 

Mike Millar grew up in Vancouver and became interested in learning more about the food we eat while studying in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. After spending a number of seasons at UBC Farm and developing a passion for farming, he is joining Yuko at Brave Child Farm to continue to grow healthy, local produce. 

Hey friends, Gillian 謝美華 here! I am excited to be back for my third season of stewarding the Choi Box! You’ll meet me through emails and at pick ups, coordinating Choi Box logistics and liaising between members and our hardworking farmers Yuko and Mike.

I’ll be your point person for questions, requests, and checking you off when you’ve picked up your box. 

What I love most about this program is seeing all of you every week for 16 weeks! I enjoy hearing about what you are making, which ingredients remind you of home, unlocking memories of food tucked far back in your mind. I love being able to work with the beautiful veggies that Yuko and Mike are harvesting.

Cooking with choi also means that I reach out to my family in Toronto when I come across vegetables that I’m not as comfortable cooking with, which helps build cultural continuity in my family.

I started at hua in the summer of 2018 as a volunteer with the CSA program, which at that time was coupled with an outdoor summer market in Chinatown. I ended up spending so much time there that I was eventually hired to staff the program. Kind of funny beginnings, but through hua and the Choi Box CSA, I have been privileged to connect with what it means to be Chinese-Canadian and to a community that I’d otherwise left back in Toronto with my Chinese family. 

Outside of hua work, I work on climate justice organizing in Vancouver as well as developing dialogues for Chinese-Canadian settlers to interrogate their settler identity and how Chinatown is positioned on these unceded Coast Salish lands.

When I sit down (if I sit down) I knit and dream about owning a dog.

I look forward to meeting you soon!

-Gillian


Yuko’s parents came to Canada from Japan in the late 1970s, and when they arrived first in Vancouver, BC, and then in Calgary, AB, there were no Japanese vegetables or food sold in the local grocery stores. Only a few specialty Asian markets existed, like a tiny tofu shop in downtown Calgary. Yuko’s mother tried very hard to create traditional Japanese meals using western ingredients. But it was never quite the same as using Japanese vegetables.  The essence of Japanese cuisine was lost.

As Yuko became a parent, she started to think about what it means to be Japanese. She wanted to pass Japanese values to her children. During this time,one of her mother’s struggles of trying to raise Japanese children in Canada became apparent. There are Japanese values that don’t translate to the English language very well, like wabi-sabi, meaning the beauty within the imperfections of life and peacefully accepting the natural cycle of growth and decay. While those values may not be easily passed down using the limits of language, they can be conveyed through experiences, like a home-cooked meal. But without authentic Japanese ingredients, these values can be difficult to translate. This is where the desire to build a farm, focused on traditional Asian vegetables arose.

Membership Details

>Members will pick up their choi weekly on Thursday evenings between 4:30 and 7:00pm in Vancouver’s Chinatown/Strathcona neighbourhood at a location to be determined at a later date. We are currently assessing our options for CSA pick up sites in response to the evolving situation with the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has spurred in how we engage with community.

>In the event that members are unable to pick up their weekly share or ask someone to pick it up on their behalf, they will forfeit their share for that week. Given recent changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hua foundation cannot under any circumstances hold or deliver unclaimed weekly shares. We will donate unclaimed shares to community services in need.

>The season is expected to run from June 14, 2020 to September 24, 2020 for a total of 16 weeks. The final dates will be set based on actual harvest schedules and will be provided to members one month in advance of the first CSA pick up date.

>Each share costs $30/week for 16 weeks, with a one-time $20 administration fee that supports hua foundation in carrying out this work, plus a one-time $24 fee for cardboard packaging that will minimize CSA members’ exposure to high-touch surfaces during their weekly pick-ups. The total cost of a share for the 16-week season, including the administration and packaging fee, is $524.

What does a weekly share look like?

◦  5-8 farm items

◦  Members receive a new, clean, recyclable cardboard box to take their veggies home each week

What Membership Looks Like

Gigi and I co-managed the CSA program with our farmer, Yuko, last season. Each week, Yuko would pull up in her Toyota Sienna, the van packed with farm goodies galore. We would unload the bins of veggies, all the while gushing at the beautiful eggplants and shishito peppers.

Our first members would arrive, and we’d tell them about how their turnip recipe they shared with us the previous week turned out. The family asks Yuko about her work week and she tells them that the fields are ripe from the long summer days, which means she has been working long days as well. As the morning turns to afternoon, other members step through the doors, some with long stories about the week that’s passed. Others zip in with their bikes.

At the end of the weekly CSA pick up, we load up Yuko’s van and send her off with encouragement, thanking her for our tote bags loaded up with sunshine for the week.

Joyce Liao 

When signing up and purchasing a CSA, all members agree to the following terms.

The farmer(s) as a relational agreement with its members will: 

-Grow vegetables using organic practice,

-Supply Asian vegetables that grow well in the climate and conditions of the farm,

– Bring in a weekly supply of vegetables, and

– Send weekly email updates about the expected harvest. 

-As I member, I am purchasing a share in the farmer’s weekly harvest, and in doing so gain the opportunity to share in the seasonal abundance of a local BC farm. 

-I recognize that farming is a seasonal and unpredictable undertaking, and the exact selections and quantities included in the weekly distribution will change as the season progresses

-I agree to share in the fluctuations and variations inherent in farming

-I agree to pick up produce at the agreed upon place and time. I may also make arrangements for a friend to pick up my share in my absence. If the produce is not picked up and prior arrangements have not been made, I understand that weeks’ share will be forfeited and hua foundation will not be able to hold or deliver my share for me in any circumstance.

-I understand that the farmers will use all the expertise and tools at their disposal to provide me with the agreed-upon length of harvest and to minimize the challenges of weather, pests or plant disease, but in the event that forces of nature reduce or destroy a crop I will accept this with understanding. 

– I agree to pay for the year’s produce in advance, understand that non-payment of any installments will not result in a refund, and will result in forfeiture of any unpaid harvest weeks.

By joining the Choi Box membership, I am agreeing to share the risks of farming with the farmer and our other members, but also in the rewards of a bountiful season. 

Questions about the Choi Box CSA program?

Text and graphics by Joyce Liao