In a recent issue of The East Hampton Star’s “The Way It Was…125 Years Ago 1891” column the following appeared: “Now is the time for persons living in the city who intend to occupy cottages…during the coming summer, to order their garden truck and other farmer’s produce, delivered to them regularly during the season. Quite a number of our cottages were troubled to obtain what they needed from the farmers last season, because they neglected to engage it in advance.”
Is this a dated idea, ordering produce from local farmers? Not at all. “Garden truck” goes by another name now. It’s “Community Supported Agriculture,” or CSA. To join a CSA is to buy a share of the season’s harvest and thus to become a part of the local farm community.
Late winter means a rest for the fields and for your local farmers. Or does it? Our East End Farmers markets have closed, except for Riverhead’s indoor market, so you may not see our local farmers much these days. Some could be resting up for the coming planting season—unless they have cows or goats to milk—but most are very busy.
Now is the time of year to think hard about crops that worked and those that didn’t and why. Research, research, research. If a good farmer cannot be actively working, he or she is always reading up on seeds and growing methods and weather predictions. Much of this information comes in the form of seed catalogs and The Farmers’ Almanac; of course the internet also offers an endless supply of information. Hard work outdoors can be a lot more relaxing than life in the “off-season!”
How does a CSA work? Before the start of the season, when the farmer is planning for the upcoming year, shares are sold to members of the community at a fixed price. The farmer plans plantings to meet the shares that have been sold. Throughout the season, typically on a weekly basis, CSA community members each receive a box with their share of that week’s harvest. Some CSAs allow members to choose from among the offerings at hand, others do not.
Many local CSAs deliver to convenient area locations, but they often encourage community members to come to the farm, and even participate in the growing of their food by volunteering.
Some CSA shares may also include flowers, herbs, honey and value-added products, like bread, dried products, yogurt, jams, sauces, and other canned goods. Goodale Farms (goodalefarms.com) outside Riverhead offers a selection of homegrown beef and pork—delivered to homes across the East End. Meanwhile, Invincible Farms (invinciblesummerfarms.com) in Southold is currently promoting a Weekly Tomato Subscription (WTS) that works much like a standard CSA with more flexibility. You can choose a subscription for two weeks or for up to eight weeks. Steph Gaylor and her staff promise “the most amazing heirloom vegetables at the height of summer.” Area CSAs range is size from farmers working just a couple acres to the Golden Earthworm Organic Farm (goldenearthworm.com) in Riverhead, the largest Certified Organic CSA farm serving all of Long Island and Queens—with more than 30 CSA pick-up locations throughout Nassau, Suffolk and Queens counties. Golden Earthworm celebrates the 20th anniversary of their founding this year.
Check with your local farmer to see what other exciting locally made products may be included in your CSA share. To locate a CSA in your area visit the Long Island Farm Bureau website at lifb.com.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) fosters a direct connection between farmers and consumers—your family buying into a farm without having to do the planting, watering, weeding or harvesting.