By Michelle Pittman and Michael Buck, Photo by laini Abraham
Local farmers want to make a deal: help get their crops started with an upfront payment and they will supply you with about six months worth of fresh, locally grown goodness.
That’s the basic model for community supported agriculture or CSA programs, which essentially create a partnership between farmers and the people who eat their crops. Cathy Coffey, owner of Forks Township-based Heritage Farms CSA, likes to consider it a commitment. The program helps farmers offset the massive costs incurred during the spring planting season and supporters get the first pick of local, sustainable produce.
So how does it work? First, find a CSA that suits your tastes— the Easton Farmers’ Market is a good place to start. Every CSA has a different cost, grows different produce and offers varying ways to pick up your weekly bounty. Ask lots of questions about cost, what produce to expect, when the growing season starts and ends and how the food is delivered or picked up.
Generally, CSA programs sell their produce in half or full shares—a half share is good for a couple or a single vegetarian while a full share will feed a small family or vegetarian couple.
Many farmers are more than happy to answer any questions about their growing practices and allow you to visit their farms. Go. See how everything works. The best time to contact farmers about CSA programs is in late fall and early winter so they can plan accordingly.
One final thought to consider—Coffey warns that there is some risk associated with joining a CSA, because crop failures happen. She pointed out that in 2009, her tomato crop was horrendous. But, there is also reward: the 2009 CSA ran six months long.
Some local CSAs to get you started:
Clear Spring Farm, 206 Garr Road, Easton
Heritage Farm, 6029 Kesslersville, Road, Nazareth
Hidden Splendor Farm, 801 Riverton Road, Bangor; find them at the Easton Farmers’ Market
Reeder Farms, 4450 Richmond Road, Easton
Blue Blaze Farm, 1081 North Road, Danielsville; find them at the Easton Farmers’ Market