Winter 2016 Feature Story: CSA Farming

Invest in fresh with a CSA share

Joyce M. Kent weighs tomatoes while working at her son’s produce booth, Kent Family Growers, at the Canton Farmer’s Market. At left is her husband David J. Kent. The Lisbon farm offers year-round CSA shares. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

Joyce M. Kent weighs tomatoes while working at her son’s produce booth, Kent Family Growers, at the Canton Farmer’s Market. At left is her husband David J. Kent. The Lisbon farm offers year-round CSA shares. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

By Karee Magee, NNY Living

The grocery store has long been dominated by soldier-like rows of foods while the freshest and healthiest sections on the perimeter have grown ever smaller.

As those sections have decreased, the products, especially produce, become more expensive and less fresh.

“It’s an important public health issue,” said Gloria McAdam, executive director of GardenShare, a nonprofit that helps low-income families afford locally produced food. “The lower a family’s income the more likely they’ll buy the cheapest food they can instead of the healthiest.

Options might seem slim, but a growing number of Community Supported Agriculture farms are bringing local, fresh produce back to the north country.

“It will absolutely be fresher,” Ms. McAdam said. “The average eggs from the grocery store are 45 days old.”

If shoppers buy eggs from a CSA, though, they would last longer without having to be refrigerated if they haven’t traveled far, she said.

A CSA is a partnership between a farmer and local consumers where everyone shares the risks and benefits of farming, Ms. McAdam said.

Consumers pay up front at the beginning of the growing season, usually in June, and receive weekly deliveries or pickups of produce and other items.

Dan Kent, of Kent Family Growers, a CSA in Lisbon, said being a partner isn’t as risky as it seems.

“There is really no risk,” he said. “We produce more than enough.”
Ms. McAdam said that consumers usually end up with more produce than what the payment is worth.

Each CSA offers different items with the staples mainly produce, but farms also offer cheese, eggs, beef, chicken and niche products.

“We try to give people the largest portion of each share the staples, but we offer some special items like strawberries and cantaloupe to keep it interesting,” Mr. Kent said.

The produce available changes depending on the season though. Strawberries and blueberries are available in the late spring, but items like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and squash are available later.

Certain CSA’s, including Kent Family Growers also have a winter season running from November to March.

Mr. Kent’s farm has a high tunnel similar to a greenhouse, but passively heated, to grow winter vegetables including beets, carrots, onions and cabbage. They also freeze fresh produce like broccoli and cauliflower for the winter season.

Mr. Kent’s family produces pickles, pesto and strawberry jam as niche items for the winter season. He said his customers appreciate the CSA because it “forces them to eat vegetables.”

“I might say we’re encouraging them,” Mr. Kent said. “People are afraid of throwing away local produce. You’re going to make the extra effort to put it to use.”

GardenShare offers a program to help low-income families in St. Lawrence County to afford the CSA payment called CSA Bonus Bucks. The program pays $100 of the cost of a CSA membership.

“Every farm is different,” McAdam said. “Find the farm that is right for you and then come back to us for CSA Bucks.”

GardenShare maintains a list of CSA’s and Farmers’ Markets in St. Lawrence County on its website gardenshare.org. To find CSA’s in the Lewis and Jefferson counties check the Cornell Cooperative Extensions website at cce.cornell.edu.

Karee Magee is a magazine associate for NNY Magazines. Contact her at 661-2381 or kmagee@wdt.net.

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