Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is another way of saying farm shares. The idea is simple – instead of going to the grocery store – cut out the middleman and pay the farmer directly for a share of produce picked fresh each week right where its grown.
CSA Week kicked off on Sunday, and local farms are promoting their weekly fruit-and-veggie program to last year’s members, as well as, any new individuals who might want to start supporting farmers for a share of their summer and fall crops.
“CSAs are really nice for the farmers, because winter time is usually the time people sign up,” said Jerry Winquist of Local Roots Farm in Burt. “This time of year, most farms don’t have that much income coming in, because we can’t grow and sell anything.”
For his farm, Winquist said he’s in the process of buying input for the farm – seeds, fertilizers and soil for seedlings – and the influx of CSA members helps him do that.
“On our farm, specifically, we start all our crops by hand, from seed ourselves. We bring in $2,000 worth of seeds every year.” he said and noted that his first generation farm is certified organic.
Winquist also said not only do CSAs help him grow food, it also helps those buying the shares
“(CSAs) bring the community closer to their farmer, so they can understand where it’s grown and with us, we feel like it’s a healthier option than a lot of things at the grocery store,” Winquist said.
In Gasport, Becker Farms is getting ready for next year’s crops, as well. The sixth generation farmer, Oscar Vizcarra III, said every year is a little different.
“We try to do the best we can each year,” he said. “Some years we have a ton of cabbage, and some years we don’t have that much cabbage. it’s really tough to find the sweet spot, especially because when we start planting, we’re not really positive to how many members we’ll have. … I try to do as wide a range as possible, and each year I try to introduce a new crop.”
On McCollum Orchards and Gardens – a farm right in the City of Lockport limits – Richard and Bree Woodbridge have been working Richard’s family property – which has been in the family since 1827 – for 10 years now and have offered CSAs for eight years. The couple come from the international consultation field and lived in D.C. before coming to Lockport to save the family farm.
“I can talk about CSAs all day,” Bree said. “It really is the heart of our farm.”
The Woodbridge’s offer a kind of marketplace style of CSA where members can pick and choose from a variety of foods laid out at the farm. In addition to that, there is a one-acre U-pick section of the farm where recipients of CSAs area allowed to pick as much as they want.
“That has everything, five different types of cherry tomatoes. three types of different green beans, 20 culinary herbs, cilantro, dill. Everything they might need for cooking,” Bree said. “We also have flowers. … About 25 varieties of flowers in our U-pick section.”