Tuesday, September 9, 2008

CSAs Contribute to Southold’s Sustainability

By Hazel Kahan, Mattituck

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, is a way for people to buy locally grown, organic vegetables directly from a local farmer and for farmers to sell their crops before they plant them.

CSA is sustainable because it is a subscription that creates a relationship between farmers and members, provides high quality, organic produce with a greatly reduced carbon footprint and eliminates some of the risk in small-scale farming. Because local residents are paying for their produce in advance, before the growing season starts, farmers can plan their planting and buy seed and fertilizers, knowing that a certain proportion is pre-sold, already “booked” in advance.

Local residents buy shares in the farmer’s produce, receiving weekly boxes of a variety of somewhere between six and ten different seasonal vegetables, in quantities sized appropriately for a single person to a larger family.

For more about CSA, please visit the Land Stewardship Project.

Three organic farms on the North Fork offer CSA memberships to local residents. The first of these CSA programs was started by Golden Earthworm, located in Jamesport. In this, their seventh official CSA year, in addition to the full 26-week membership, they are also offering a 12-week autumn share and, for the first time, a fruit share in collaboration with Briermere Farms. CSA has been such a successful venture for Golden Earthworm --“We sold out earlier than in past years,” says Maggie Wood -- that they have turned their farm “into a CSA farm almost exclusively. We grow for our members.” says Maggie Wood, who runs the farm with her husband Jim Russo and Matthew Kurek.

Garden of Eve, located on Sound Avenue in Aquebogue, is in its fifth year as a CSA farm said Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht who runs the farm with her husband, Christopher: “CSA members are the most important thing helping to keep local organic farms successful and sustainable.” This year Garden of Eve gave all their Riverhead members a cookbook specifically developed for CSA members “so they would know what all the unusual vegetables look like and what to do with them.” Garden of Eve offers a winter share consisting of fresh organic greens grown in solar tunnels, stored root vegetables, squash and fresh farm eggs.

Sang Lee Farms located on Sound Avenue in Cutchogue, offers partial and full shares as do the other farms. Their web site describes: “an actual mid Summer CSA box from August 15, 2007, Week # 12 , was: 1 bu. Mixed radishes, 1 8oz. bag of mesclun, several heads of Shang Hai Baby Bok Choy, 1 Green Boston head lettuce, 1 Red Leaf lettuce head, 1 Yellow Doll personal sized watermelon, 3 pcs. mixed eggplants, 1 bu. Italian Parsley, 1 ctn. Orange Sungold & Red Cherry Tomatoes, and 2 Heirloom tomatoes- Orange Blossum and Yellow Beefsteak.”

A fourth small farm is just getting into the CSA world. KK and Ira Haspel on Route 25 in Southold offer a “gourmet CSA”, for which orders can be placed as late as the night before the produce is needed. This is not a membership relationship but a custom, short order convenience that is based on what is available at the farm. “It helps me know in the morning how much of what I have to go out to pick in the morning,” says KK. Although this arrangement requires no upfront financial commitment from the customer, “I just ask that hopefully they buy from me every week they are around.” She hopes to repeat this version of CSA next year but may ask for a small amount of initial credit against which payments can be deducted. “This would help in the spring with all the set-up costs, when more money is going out then coming in.” For more information, KK can be reached on her cell phone 516-398-8731.

Since the content of CSA boxes depends on what is ready to pick in the farms’ fields and greenhouses, becoming a CSA member includes a built-in surprise each week.

Sustainable Southold encourages you to learn more about community-supported agriculture and to visit each of our neighborhood farms to see how you and the farmers can jointly engage in making Southold more sustainable.

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