by Monika Salvage
Published in The Citizen
“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn,” Hal Borland writes, which is an uplifting thought after shoveling heavy snow for the umpteenth time this winter. Spring does not just give us a chance to finally put away our snow shovels and winter clothing, it brings our gardens, trees, and fields back to life. The often blinding white or muddy brown gives way to colorful surroundings that lift our mood and spirit. This is also the busiest time for farmers who plan out their growing season and start planting seedlings so we may enjoy fresh and local seasonal produce. You can play a more active role in providing your family with high-quality vegetables, fruits, herbs, meat, and even flowers fresh from a local farm. Do your share now to get your share all season long!
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a concept that has been around for some years and fosters a partnership between farmers and supporting community members who purchase a “share” of a farm’s annual harvest before the growing season. With this early commitment, “shareholders” provide financial stability to cover a farmer’s up-front costs, support the season planning process and share the risks and benefits associated with farm production. In turn, members receive weekly shares of the seasonal bounty that will provide their families with healthy snacks and meals.
CSAs in the area offer shares for various household sizes, seasons, and farm products. Some require direct farm pickup while others offer pickups from local farmers markets. Shares can be paid in whole up front (often with a discount) or in monthly installments. You can choose a vegetable share that may introduce you to native produce that you normally wouldn’t buy and invites you to experiment with new ingredients and get in touch with the seasonal growing cycle. You can choose a meat share and know exactly where your meat comes from and what the raising practices are at that particular farm. If you always want to have a fresh bouquet of flowers in your house, choose a flower share and be surprised every week by new vibrant colors and varieties.
One farm that conveniently delivers weekly vegetable shares to an Auburn location is Early Morning Farm. I’ve been a shareholder with them for years and am very satisfied with their work, organic produce, and communication. Not only do they keep you up to date on their growing process and what to expect in your next share throughout the season, which runs June through November, they also provide valuable produce handling and storage information as well as recipes on their website. So even if you encounter a vegetable that you are not familiar with, you have a place to go for detailed cooking instructions. And the color images on their website are just as crisp as their produce.
I grow many flower varieties around my house and in my garden, but I like to see them out there, so I never have the heart to cut them. It would be nice, however, to have fresh cut flowers in the house as well. So, I’m thinking about trying out the flower CSA from Silver Tree Forest in Owasco, which consists of a weekly 30-stem bouquet for 12 weeks. This farm seems to have a lot more going on than flowers. They grow mushrooms and started a food forest, which by itself should be worth a visit. The farmers also started a low-maintenance edible forest garden on Garrow Street. We live in a time where technology seems to have the answers for everything, but too often we forget how simple natural processes such as growing food work. In lieu of growing your own food, knowing where your food comes from is a good alternative.
If any of this peaked your interest, do your research online for what CSA best meets your needs and make your commitment now, so the farmers have a better idea of how many shareholders to plant for. Become part of a local food movement that values partnerships between farmers and consumers and shared responsibility for the land on which our food is grown.
If you are not yet ready to commit to a full season of CSA, remember that many local farmers sell their products at farmers markets. The Auburn Farmers Market sets up at the Curley’s parking lot Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 7 am to 2 pm, starting June 2. The Owasco Farmers Market is open Wednesdays from 3 to 7 pm behind the Owasco Fire Department.