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Keep It Local: CSA Farming – a growing trend

-by Deb Thomas

We’re getting smarter about food. The number of farms has increased in Connecticut, showing a growing trend towards a population that’s not only interested in local food, but one that’s ready to invest in small farms, too. There are over 125 farmers’ markets in Connecticut riding a deep wave of popularity; we have ten in Middlesex County. People want fresh foods, and have learned to seek out farmers’ markets as an oasis of local fresh farm bounty.  Another concept catching on like wildfire across our New England region, according to the USDA, is CSA farming. There were over 100 Connecticut CSA farms in 2011 and that number is growing too. 

CSA Vegetable PhotoWhy? Simply because consumers have found healthy alternatives to big box store offerings. Pesticide free, non-GMO, organic produce and free range beef, and cage-free chickens — are not only buzz-word phrases; they matter to a lot more people every day and local farms are championing the cause. People want a say in where and how their food is grown.

Community Supported Agriculture ( abbreviated by those in the farming community as CSA farming) in the United States sprang from a European idea regarding direct farmer to consumer ideas that support common goals of both the farmer-who desires to keep his land in production, and the consumer-who wants a steady supply of good food fresh from the farm. There is a fascinating article about CSAs for all those interested in reading more about the roots of the United States model-which people generally agree began with two farms in Massachusetts in the early 1980’s.

As a member of a CSA, people purchase a share; a flat fee to purchase produce and other items from a farm during a set amount of time (all during growing season is the norm-with more farmers adding winter month greenhouses as well), for which you will receive a weekly allotment. Some farms offer quarter and half shares as well or try to match you to others who want to split a share. CSA Farm MarketMany offer work shares, which reduces your rate. This arrangement produces a stable income for farms rather than having to rely on market prices for farm goods, whether wholesale or direct as at a farm stand. It’s a guaranteed income. Ultimately a CSA brings food fresh from the farm in the same traditional ways we know, but now the consumer is being made aware of the importance of local, and regional farming for other reasons.

One compelling idea behind a new found love of local farming is our awareness of global catastrophes; economies, wars and weather, and how they affect our food supply. Think of the consequences of having a midwestern and west coast drought, followed by a coastal storm which wipes out highways up and down the east coast. Local farms insure a local food supply. CSA McCleanFactory farming, the use of pesticides and fertilizers, GMOs, hormone and other antibiotic use, what our children are eating,  preserving local farmland and keeping it in production—- these are among only some of the “food” topics are in our news all the time. If you consider health issues alone, it is enough of a motivating factor to get interested in local food production. Going forward, people seem to be embracing the opportunity and need to have local, safe and sustainable food sources. These issues will continue to fuel the interest in CSA farming.

Haddam CSA Farms:

Wellstone Farm, 356 Candlewood Hill Road, Higganum (and can be reached at: wellstonefarm@yahoo.com).

Other Farms supplying Farmer’s Markets:

McLean Farms, 1426 Saybrook Road, Haddam (and can be reached at: 860-759-8714 and email at: karenbethf@gmail.com)

Both farms have Facebook pages for more information, and also participate in the Higganum Village Farmers’ Market on Fridays, from 3:30 to 6:30 PM on Higganum Green.

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