CAROL TASHIE and DENNIS DUHAIME
Despite the snow on the ground and the frigid chill in the air, now is the perfect time to start thinking about farm-fresh vegetables. And what better way to ensure that you are first in line for a healthy share of local veggies than to register for a CSA farm share today.
Community Supportive Agriculture, commonly known as a CSA or a farm share, is a classic win-win scenario. Become a farm share member and receive a weekly share of a farm’s delicious harvest. In return, farmers receive an upfront financial investment in their farm and the satisfaction of sharing their bounty with people truly connected and committed to their success.
So how do you decide if a farm share is right for you?
First consider your family’s eating habits and desires. Do you enjoy a variety of fresh vegetables and are you excited to occasionally try something new? Do you like to cook and discover new recipes?
Would you like to develop a relationship with a local farmer and see firsthand the joys and challenges of growing food in Vermont? If you have children, would you like them to know where their food comes from? Satisfied farm share members generally answer yes to most or all of these questions.
Family size is also a consideration. Large farm shares are typically perfect for a family of four, or for two large vegetable eaters; small shares are usually just right for one or two people. But since each family’s appetite is different, talk to farmers to see which sizes are available and which one works best for you.
In addition to size, farm shares also vary in scope. Some farms offer free choice, giving share members the ability to chose what they want, when they want it; others generously divvy up the week’s harvest and offer an ever-changing diversity of ultra-fresh food. Depending on the CSA, shares can be picked up at the farm, the local farmers’ market, or, in some instances, delivered to in-town locations or area businesses. Some farms offer only vegetables, others offer meat, cheese, and/or bread as well. There are even ways to order your farm-fresh food online.
What about cost? While each farm determines the cost of their shares based on a wide variety of factors, buying a farm share typically makes excellent financial sense. Compared to shopping at a farmers market or even a grocery store, most shares provide a greater value for your food dollar. However, keep in mind that most farms ask members to pay for their share prior to start of the harvest; this advance capital allows the farmer to purchase seeds, soil amendments and meet other infrastructure needs.
Lastly, it is important to recognize that farming is not a fail-proof endeavor. While every farmer strives for success, nothing is guaranteed and each year there may be a crop failure or two. Members share the bountiful joys, as well as the occasional disappointments, with their farmers.
Once you have decided that a farm share might be right for you, consider which farm you would like to join. Remember, becoming a farm share member is so much more than a business transaction; it is the development of a real, and potentially long-lasting, relationship. Base your decision on the things that matter most to you, including the farm’s growing practices, your current relationship with the farmers, the location of the farm, the variety of vegetables offered, and anything else you value. If you are still not sure, get recommendations from current share members or from your neighbors and friends. Visit the farm’s website. Chat directly with the farmer; most of us love to talk about our farms and are happy to help you decide if our CSA is right for you.
For a complete listing of CSAs in the Rutland and Northshire region, check out Rutland Area Farm and Food Link’s locally grown guide (www.rutlandfarmandfood.org/guide/). For a statewide list, visit NOFA’s website (http://nofavt.org/).
We have no doubt you will find the farm share that is just right for you. And those luscious tomatoes will be here before you know it.
Carol Tashie and Dennis Duhaime own Radical Roots Farm, growing vegetables for their CSA farm share members, Rutland’s Farmers’Market, and local restaurants and schools. To learn more about their farmvisit www.RadicalRootsVT.com,or contact them at email@example.com.