Consumers buy ‘shares,’ get fresh local produce

Fort Wayne News Sentinel
By Lauren Caggiano

Local consumers have discovered another way to avoid the middleman when it comes to buying fresh produce.

Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has emerged as an alternative to buying grocery store produce. In short, CSA makes it possible for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.

The concept is founded on a transactional relationship between the consumer and the farmer. A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” of the projected crops to the public, who then become “members.” Members help pay for seeds and additional costs.

In return, the farm provides, to the best of its ability, an abundant supply of seasonal fresh produce throughout the growing season.

Most often, this consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products, like dairy items, may be included. Due to weather and things beyond the farmer’s control, the dates of produce availability are subject to change.

A ‘win-win situation’

Proponents of CSA argue it’s a win-win situation for the consumer and the farmer.

“CSAs provide a link for healthy local food between consumers and the producer,” said Ricky Kemery, horticulture educator at the Allen County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension service. “They help the local economy by providing a ready-made market for the local small producer. This reduces the risk that farmers take when they produce a crop(s) and then have to search for places to sell their product.”

It’s also common for produce to be shipped hundreds or thousands of miles to distribution centers before ultimately ending up on the shelves of a local supermarket. Those transportation costs can be reduced if more consumers purchased local produce, Kemery said.

Finally, Kemery said CSAs help urban dwellers become re-connected with nature and learn to appreciate and understand food production.

“CSAs will have a hard time taking (the) place of supermarkets, but they are an alternative for folks who prefer local produce and want to promote a sustainable local economy,” he said.

Other benefits

For Addie Bhuiya, CSA coordinator for Graber Farms in Harlan, the difference between store-bought products and fresh-from-the farm produce is the health benefit. The farming methods that most CSA farmers follow are no-spray or organic, Bhuiya said. Ultimately, this is better for the world’s water supplies, wildlife and soil, which need to be preserved for future generations.

Another added benefit is the sense of community CSA tends to create:

“It is a really great way to get to know people that have like-minded interests,” she said.

Getting involved

Here are some of the community-supported agriculture providers in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area:

    ♦Country Garden & Farm Market

    Address: 1410 U.S. 24 West, Roanoke

    Phone: 672-1254

    Share prices: $120-$1,026

    Note: Check Web site for information on discounts.

    ♦Goldwood Gardens

    Address: 4750 W. 350 North, northwest of Columbia City

    Phone: 1-260-244-6482

    Share prices: $250-$450

    Contact: Canda Goldwood, 1-260-244-6482

    ♦Graber Farms

    Address: 26409 Springfield Center Road, Harlan

    Phone: 657-5061

    Share prices: $480-$825

    Contact: Addie Bhuiya, CSA coordinator, 241-7309 or [email protected] yahoo.com

    Note: CSA members get a 5 percent discount off you-pick cost for produce.

    ♦Little Hillside CSA

    Address: Delivery only

    Phone: 403-3101

    Share prices: $40-$75

    Contact: Paul Oberly, 403-3101

    Note: Due to the small size of the operation, Little Hillside currently limits memberships to 20 per year, on a first-come, first-served basis.

    ♦Old Loon Farm

    Address: 7551 N. Brown Road, Loon Lake, north of Columbia City

    Phone: 1-260-799- 4422

    Web site: www.oldloonfarm.com

    Share prices: $100 (fall basket) Note: Fall share starts Sept. 15.

    Contact: Jane Loomis, 1-260-799-4422, [email protected]

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