Monday, June 11, 2007

Community Supported Agriculture

During the last week of May, I received an e-mail with the news I've waited all spring to hear:

First CSA Pickups at the farm are:
Tuesday, June 12, 3-7:30 PM
Thursday, June 14
, 3-7:30 PM
Sunday, June 17, 3-7:30 PM

Forget the summer solstice. To me, the day our farm share pickups begin is the real first day of summer.

L & I joined the Waltham Fields Community Farm in January of 2005, and I've never looked at vegetables the same way since. As you may have guessed, I am terribly excited about our first pickup. There probably won't be a huge amount- not compared to the heavy bags of vegetables and fruit we take home as the summer progresses- but there will be something, and I know it will be tasty.

The dog will be excited, too. He loves romping around the farm, especially when there are escaped carrots and tomatoes to be found in the long grass leading up to the vegetable rows. One pickup day last year, the Farm Manager (Amanda) gave him some carrots to munch on. He was happy as a clam, and I'm sure he hasn't forgotten it.

Wondering what this CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) business is? According to our farm's
website, "CSA refers to a model of farming in which farmers sell harvest shares (vegetables, flowers, meat, etc.) directly to people in the local community. It was adopted in America from Japanese and European models, largely as a response to the disappearance of the small farm. CSA represents a shared commitment - shareholders commit to the farm for the season, providing farmers with a secure customer base, and farmers commit to doing their utmost to provide their shareholders with the best-quality, most nutritious food around. This direct connection between farmer and consumers bypasses middlemen (e.g., marketers, long distance shippers), benefits the farmer by increasing farm revenue, benefits the environment by decreasing packaging and pollution, and benefits consumers by providing fresh, high-quality produce at competitive prices."

The pitfalls of this system? Well, you are subject to the weather and yearly harvest, which is always a mildly scary thought. What if it's cold until July and frost hits early in the fall? What if it rains for 3 months straight and everything rots? What if something goes wrong and the garlic doesn't sprout (this is one of the worst tragedies that I can imagine)? I suppose anything could happen, but when you throw
hard-working, agriculturally-savvy farm staff into the mix, you're pretty much guaranteed success.

The benefits? Fresh, organic, locally-grown produce for, at the very least, 20 weeks every year. The opportunity to pick your own food- literally- with in-the-field tastings encouraged along the way. The chance to try some cool new things that you'd be hard pressed to find in most stores (mizuna greens, anyone?). Not to mention the nutritional benefits of food that
hasn't been shipped 600 miles, artificially ripened, and waxed to eerie, superficial perfection. And best of all, we've found that the weekly cost is actually cheaper than buying the same things at any of the grocery stores near us.

In addition, Waltham Fields operates a Hunger Relief Program
, multiple Education Programs, and a Farmland Preservation operation. How good can it get?!

Want to find a CSA in your area? I've included some links below, but I am sure that there are more resources out there. Happy hunting!

No comments: