A Share in Community Supported Agriculture: Let the Adventure Begin
This week, a friend and I put down the down-payment on an epicurean adventure we will be taking this summer.
Why is it an adventure?
Because we have signed on and invested in a local farm, and all the risks that go with farming. We are taking a bet on Mother Nature that she will bestow upon our local farm the perfect conditions for growing a bountiful crop this summer.
Because this summer, we will have to get very creative with kale and beets.
The rising demand for locally-grown produce and sustainable farming methods has created opportunities for developing a connection between enterprising young farmers and suburbanites through a movement called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.
In December 2001, one source reported a net total of 761 CSA farms registered with USDA. By 2007, an agricultural census conducted by the USDA tallied 12,549 farms that marketed products by way of community supported agriculture (CSA).
Most of these CSA farms are located in California and Texas. Right now, in New York State, there are about 200 farms that use CSA as a method to market their crops.
Oe of them is the East Hill Farm CSA in Middlesex. It is the project of the Rochester Folk Art Guild a sustainable community of artisans and farmers who have worked and created on this farm since the 1960’s.
Though the ground is still covered with snow, the East Hill Farm managers are busy ordering vegetable seeds, recruiting volunteers and processing CSA membership applications. Over half of the farm’s 80 shares have already been sold. A membership for 20 weeks of produce costs $500, or $490 if purchased before March 1. Shares include a wide variety of vegetables, as well as fruit in the later part of the season.
Information on getting a CSA share can be found at www.easthillcsa.org or by calling the JCC at (585) 461-2000. At the website, one can even sign up for a “CSA buddy” to split a share if a boxful of veggies every week may be just too much to consume.
The East Hill Farmers represent a new generation of farmers who may not necessarily have a background growing up on a parent’s or grandparent’s farm. What they do have is a passion for growing food with organic and sustainable techniques.
Cordelia Hall grew vegetables as a child in a community garden and then became part of the “guerilla” urban gardening trend while she was a student at Boston University. Now in her third year as co-manager of the farm, she has observed and worked on farms in Tanzania, New Zealand and Mexico.
Thomas Arminio, another suburbanite-turned-farmer at East Hill, said his experience in farming has taught him that timing plantings just right is crucial for having successful crops. A native of New Jersey, he is looking forward to growing interesting varieties of melons and root vegetables along with heirloom tomatoes, beets, Swiss chard and lettuces.
So, this summer, I can actually say I have become acquainted with the people who will grow my food, because I interviewed them for my column and this blog post. You just can’t say that buying a plastic-wrapped package of hothouse tomatoes from a big box warehouse store or the supermarket.
As I get my box of veggies for the week, I’ll write about what I got, and what I made, so stay tuned.