Though the snow is deep, Seacoast farmers are planning summer CSA offerings
by Leslie Modica
With a week’s worth of snowstorms dashing any chances of seeing green outside for several months, fresh fruit and produce from local farms seem farther away than ever. While the rest of us are hunkering down to binge watch the latest season of “The Walking Dead” on Netflix, Seacoast farmers are planning their summer and fall harvests. And that means it’s time for consumers to start thinking about purchasing CSA (community supported agriculture) shares.
“(We) have started to order all the seeds and supplies we need to keep our local food system going another year,” Heron Pond Farm’s Andrew Cantelmo said. “This time of year, it seems that all the money is going one way: out.”
Buying a CSA share from local farms allows farmers to bring in income when they need it most — during the offseason, when they’re buying seeds and supplies for the next season. When the ground freezes, so to does the cash flow at most farms.
“Having such an invested group of dedicated CSA members provides us the cash flow needed to make our year-round food system work,” Cantelmo said.
A CSA is basically a partnership between consumers and farmers. Before the growing season starts, consumers buy shares at a fixed price. Once farmers start harvesting the crops, CSA members pick up their portion of the share each week. Both farmer and consumer share in the risks and rewards of the season. Lots of sun and plenty of rain? You’ll be rewarded with tons of produce. Debilitating drought? There will still be plenty to go around, but maybe a little less than other years. Still, by agreeing to take on some of the risk, CSA shareholders receive produce at a cheaper rate than buying from a farmstand, usually about 10 to 20 percent less.
Also, it means you get to think about summer heirloom tomatoes in the dead of winter. And we can all use a little of that right now.
Below is a sampling of what a few local farms are offering this year. Seacoast Eat Local will also hold two CSA Days at its winter farmers markets — on Feb. 14 at Wentworth Greenhouses in Rollinsford and Feb. 28 at Exeter High School — where you can meet the farmers in person.
Heron Pond Farm
290 Main Avenue, South Hampton, heronpondfarm.com
Heron Pond offers three options for its CSA program — a full share, which feeds three or four people ($550); a half share, which feeds two people ($325), and, new this year, a debit card option. The farm offers a wide range of vegetables throughout the season, including tomatoes, corn, green beans, onions, greens, and rarer options like kohlrabi. It also includes its own strawberries and blueberries and sometimes partners with other farms to include peaches and apples. This year, Heron Pond will also offer an artisan cheese share as an add-on ($220). It runs for 20 weeks and allows a CSA member to choose a wedge of Appleton Farms cheese each week.
Touching Earth Farm
22 Stevenson Road, Kittery, Maine, touchingearthfarm.com
Touching Earth offers two share sizes for its CSA members: a full share ($600) or a small share ($350). CSA shares include a wide range of fruits and vegetables based on what is growing that week. Past shares have included greens and garlic scapes in the spring, hot peppers and summer squash in the summer, and beets and Brussels sprouts in the fall. CSA members can also visit and take cuttings from the farm’s flower and herb gardens.
Applecrest Farm Orchards
133 Exeter Road, Hampton Falls, applecrest.com
Applecrest CSA members are nothing if not spoiled for choice. By picking among a wide variety of add-ons and share combinations, it’s possible to take care of almost all your shopping through the CSA options. In addition to the standard fruit and vegetable share ($600 full/$400 half), there is a fruit add-on share ($120), a flower and herb share ($100), a bread share ($140 for hearth or pan loaf, $80 for French baguette), an egg share ($80), a creamery share for an ice cream fix ($90), and a milk share of Hatchland Farms milk ($140). For $900 for the season, the Locavore Share includes the fruit and vegetable shares, the bread share (both the baguette and hearth loaf), the creamery share, and the flower and herb share. Applecrest also allows week-by-week add-ons. If you need grass-fed beef for a cookout or a baguette and butter for a new French dish you’re cooking, you can add it to your weekly share.
61 Stratham Heights Road, Stratham, meadowsmirth.com
Unlike most other farms, Meadow’s Mirth runs its CSA share program entirely on a debit card system. The farmers believe this leads to less food waste because shareholders choose what they want each week. A share consists of $440 worth of products (for a purchase price of $400) that can be used throughout the calendar year. The credit can be used at farmer’s markets (Exeter and Rollinsford in the winter; Exeter and Portsmouth in the summer) or at the farm stand during the warmer months. In addition to its regular share, the certified organic farm also offers a pick-your-own blueberry share for $100 for 30 pints.
For a complete list of local CSA options, including meat and seafood CSAs, visit seacoasteatlocal.org.
At top of page: Chris Foster reaps the harvest at Touching Earth Farm in Kittery, Maine. (courtesy photo)