Welcome back to part 2 of our round-up of the Greater Hartford Farm Scene. Yesterday we focused on Farmers Markets, Farm Stands, and U-Pick, which are common ways to get fresh, local, vegetables. They don’t require a commitment – you can stop in if your schedule matches up with their hours. It just takes a little bit of travel time, and perhaps some sweat, to get delicious produce for dinner and dessert. Today we’re covering Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Shares and Delivery Options, which do require a bit more of a commitment, but can be much more convenient.
Community Supported Agriculture Shares
For those of you that are interested in a one stop shopping type of method of obtaining locally grown fruits and vegetables, a Connecticut CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation may be worthy of consideration. The basic model with a CSA is that you purchase a share, sometimes sold in whole or half shares, at the beginning of the growing season. The farmer then uses your upfront payment as capital towards the growing season, to purchase seeds, labor, etc. Sometimes, you can pay for a portion of your share by volunteering on the farm. Then, you will receive a weekly distribution from the share over a set period of weeks. This is your dividend from the upfront payment. Buyers of the share assume some risk; if the growing season is plentiful, then the weekly distribution will be equally bountiful. However, if there are weather issues, such as the CT tomato and potato blight of 2009, the result is a smaller offering of produce.
Based on my readings and knowledge of local CSA operations, it appears that most CSA’s in the Hartford region require the weekly share to be picked up at the farming location. Farm share opportunities such as Holcomb Farm in East Granby, Rosedale Farm in Simsbury, Oxen Hill Farm in Suffield, and the George Hall Farm in Simsbury offer this type of CSA model. Local pickup makes it difficult to participate if you don’t live in an area that offers a CSA, although the Grow Hartford CSA is an up and coming urban farm model, along with the Urban Oaks Organic Farm of New Britain. Many of these CSA options have sold out for the 2010 growing season, so if you are interested in purchasing a share next summer, make sure to start the process in the late winter/early spring. CSA listings for the Hartford area can be found here on Buy CT Grown and here at CTNOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association).
A final option, which my wife and I just tried for the first time, is the recently launched delivery service Connecticut Farm Fresh Express. CTFFE delivers once a week on a year round basis. You can select from all kinds of Connecticut grown and produced products. Their online store opens Thursday evening, and closes on Monday at Noon. Orders are processed on Wednesday and delivered to your door for a fee that ranges between $5.00 and $15.00. For delivery to Glastonbury, it was $9.50. There is no minimum order, and the products available change each week, so be sure to check back frequently. This service runs throughout the winter, so it would be especially helpful to track down those Connecticut grown root vegetables to keep the stream of fresh produce flowing throughout the winter months (see photo of crazy carrots). We ordered some baby gourmet carrots, flounder and cod freshly caught off the Connecticut coast, as well as locally-raised beef, pork sausage and ground bison. Also, locally roasted organic Ethiopia Yirgacheffe coffee from Ashlawn Farm Coffee will be sampled for the first time tomorrow morning. The Hartford Courant had a nice write-up of the CTFFE operation and its founder, Deb Marsden, and we were pleased to support such an entrepreneurial start-up business.
Well, that blog entry has about exhausted this correspondent. Keep your eyes peeled for the next entry on one of the most important factors when examining towns for a potential homes purchase, namely, the type of garbage collection services provided!
Thanks for the update, Farm Boy, we’ll look forward to your next report.