After years of exuberant experiments with tomato plants and rows of radishes (which, as I recall from my grade-school days, even 4-year-olds can be trusted to grow) produced nothing but heaps of weeds and a popular venue for rabbit conventions, I finally realized my future didn't lie in farming.
But even those of us without the time, talent or inclination to garden still crave the fresh flavors of blueberries, peaches and corn in summer. That's the beauty of a CSA (short for Community Supported Agriculture), which elegantly links even the most brown-thumbed eaters with local food and the farmers who grow it. CSA members -- sometimes referred to shareholders or subscribers -- provide small farmers with badly needed cash at the start of the growing season, and receive a weekly share of the farm's bounty in return. As recently as 1990, there were only 50 CSAs operating nationwide; today, there are nearly that many in North Carolina alone.
To help make sense of the many choices, the Xpress recently asked every area CSA provider to complete a short survey. As the answers make clear, each CSA is slightly different, with their structures often reflecting their farmers' individual philosophies and growing strategies. But whether subscribers are or are not invited to help with harvesting, and whether carrots are or are not included in weekly deliveries, all CSAs are equally successful at achieving the worthy goals of supporting local farmers and keeping food dollars close to home.
One caveat: Peak CSA subscribing season has already passed. While all of the following CSAs had openings at press time, farmers report their membership rosters are filling fast. Call soon.
Blackbird Farms, Flat Rock
Billy and Delana Haynes, (828) 808-8080, email@example.com
How would you describe your farm?: We specialize in specialty. We have about 15 or so acres in cultivation. Everything we grow for the CSA is organically produced, and we use as many organic practices as possible in our big conventional tomato field.
How much does a share cost?: For 24 weeks, a full share is $650 and a half share costs $350. For 12 weeks, a full share is $350 and a half share is $200.
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: A good variety of seasonal farm fresh produce at a good value. The box size will vary a little depending on what is being harvested. For instance, if we put a watermelon in a half-bushel box, that would pretty much take up the whole box and I am afraid most folks would be a little disappointed. Our goal is to keep people happy through quality, freshness, variety and generosity.
Where and when do subscribers pick up?: Flat Rock Tailgate Market on Thursday afternoons; Hendersonville Tailgate Market on Saturday mornings, Hendersonville Co-op Market on Monday afternoons and Blackbird Farms by request. Delivery is also available.
How many years have you been offering a CSA?: This our first year.
What makes your CSA special?: We want to build real relationships with our members, giving the consumer the opportunity to really know the farmer and have a voice that will be heard in regards to the food we produce.
Cane Creek Asparagus & Company
Glenda Ploeger, (828 )628-1601, firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you describe your farm?: Our Fairview family farm is serving the community with nine continuous years of CSA farming experience.
How much does a share cost?: $45 every other week.
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: A recycled three-quarter bushel box filled with eight to 12 different veggies per pickup. We grow over 60 varieties of seasonal gourmet vegetables during our local harvest season, which typically runs from early May through the end of October.
Where and when do subscribers pick up?: We have three convenient pickup locations in Fairview and Arden.
How many years have you been offering a CSA?: Experience counts in this unique, direct-to-consumer marketing model, and we have been offering a CSA for nine continuous years.
What makes your CSA special?: Our vegetable boxes are delivered six days a week, providing each member with the freshest possible produce. We harvest in the morning, pack at noon and deliver our boxes every afternoon to some CSA family member. We are a sustainable family farm and employ no outside labor. Additionally, we assume the total risk for the growing season. Excess vegetables are donated to local food banks and shelters several days a week, in keeping with our freshness motto.
Gladheart Farms, Asheville
Michael Porterfield, (828) 280-7595, email@example.com
How would you describe your farm?: Gladheart Farms is a certified organic farm located within Asheville's city limits. We specialize in obtaining and farming underutilized land close to urban centers. We are very close to downtown and therefore are able to ensure extremely fresh produce to our customers. Furthermore, all of our farm vehicles and tractors are fueled with biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil.
How much does a share cost?: Full share, $770.00 (22 weeks of produce); half Share, $450.00 (22 weeks of produce); Artisan Bread share, $135.00 (22 artisan loaves -- one in each box); Coffee Club share: $110.00 (11 pounds of coffee -- one every other week).
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: CSA members can expect to receive 22 weeks of fresh, certified-organic, seasonal produce. Produce will vary depending on what is in season. No fruit unless otherwise specified.
Where and when do subscribers pick up?: Pickup locations are at Gladheart Farms in Oakley or Mount Vernon Circle in north Asheville, right off Merrimon Avenue
How many years have you been offering a CSA?: Two.
What makes your CSA special?: Fresh vegetables, herbs and cut flowers. All produce is extremely local and produced on reclaimed farmland. All equipment is powered by biodiesel, and organic and sustainable practices are used in our farming operation.
Green Hill Urban Farm, Asheville
Mike Fortune, (828) 775-0548, firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you describe your farm?: Green Hill Urban Farm is an old homestead in West Asheville that by chance was saved from development. Sitting on about four acres overlooking Patton Avenue, mature fruit and nut trees polka-dot the property. Vegetable, herb and fruit gardens surround a nursery, greenhouse and produce stand. Two Sides is a 70-plus-year-old tobacco farm just outside downtown Mars Hill. Two Sides sits on 17 acres and has several old barns, a pond and five acres of certified-organic land.
How much does a share cost?: $250/half share or $500/full share. Half shares are good for one to three people, and full shares for three to five people, depending on eating habits.
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: We provide a weekly harvest of seasonal vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. We include Theros Olive Oil in our shares, of which we aid in the harvest and production. We are working to develop our value-added line of preserved products by the fall, when we hope to include them in our package or make them available in a small, winter CSA. We encourage other local food and value-added producers to contact us, as we are working to include other such products in our package.
Where and when do subscribers pick up?: Wednesdays at Green Hill Urban Farm in West Asheville, off Patton Avenue and Deaverview Road, or Thursdays at our Two Sides Farm in Mars Hill on Lower Gabriel's Creek Road.
How many years have you been offering a CSA? The Green Hill produce stand opened in 2005, and although we specialized in wholesale and restaurant markets in WNC for the past seven years, this is only our second year offering a CSA. Starting a CSA is intimidating. I know local farmers who, like me, are or were hesitant to do so, but it is well worth it. We began transitioning last year and will be continuing to do so over the next year or two.
What makes your CSA special?: The urban aspect of Green Hill provides a unique place to access food, community and neo-agrarian culture. The Two Sides farm embodies the nostalgic, agrarian past. Urban agriculture, urban farming, community-supported agriculture -- these are all modern and emerging ideas that are only starting to take root. Luckily, Asheville is great soil for good ideas.
Green Toe Ground Farm, Burnsville
Nicole DelCogliano and Gaelan Corozine, (828) 675-0171, email@example.com
How would you describe your farm?: Biodynamic and organic.
How much does a share cost?: Regular share $325; full share $525
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: Lettuces, greens, beans, squash, beets, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes, winter squash, spinach, arugula, herbs, onions, garlic, fingerlings, salad mix, basil, celeriac, watermelon, cantaloupe, turnips, parsnips, broccoli and cabbage.
Where and when do subscribers pick up?: Wednesdays at the French Broad Food Co-op market, or at the farm in Celo.
How many years have you been offering a CSA?: Eight.
What makes your CSA special?: We are at a higher elevation and offer cool crops all summer, in addition to hot-weather crops.
Jake's Farm, Candler
Missy Huger and Chris Sawyer, (828) 335-5184, firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you describe your farm?: Jake's Farm is an old-fashioned truck farm growing a huge variety of berries and vegetables.
How much does a share cost?: $650. The option of paying by credit card is available.
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: A portion of what is ready for harvest, starting slowly with a half-bushel box, increasing to a bushel as the season progresses. Canning vegetables available by request.
Where and when do subscribers pick up? We prefer our subscribers pick up at the farm in Candler; other arrangements on a case-by-case basis.
How many years have you been offering a CSA?: Eight.
What makes your CSA special?: Jake's Farm is certified organic and has been providing gourmet vegetables to Asheville restaurants for 10 years. Our only complaint has been too much food.
Let It Grow Organic Gardens
Frank and Julie Teneralli, (828) 622-9648, email@example.com
How would you describe your farm?:
We're a family run farm, growing produce, nurturing our land and being nurtured by our community.
How much does a share cost?: $500.
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: You'll receive the adventure, joy and heartbreak of a farming season. All kinds of seasonal veggies, including all the ol' standbys and a few you've never heard of.
Where and when do subscribers pick up?: Downtown Hot Springs, downtown Marshall, and downtown Asheville, all on Wednesday afternoon.
How many years have you been offering a CSA?: Five.
What makes your CSA special?: We treat every customer like our own personal dinner guest.
Mountain Harvest Organics, Hot Springs
Julie Mansfield and Carl Evans, (828) 622-3654, firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you describe your farm? Our 130-acre farm is located in the Spring Creek community of Madison County. Our farm is nestled in a valley shadowed by beautiful Bluff Mountain, over which the Appalachian Trail passes. Our location inspires us to use natural farming practices to preserve the beauty for future generations. We currently have
four acres in production.
How much does a share cost? $550 for 22 weeks or $650 for 26 weeks.
What should a CSA member expect to receive? We are supplying our CSA with what our farm produces, so our CSA members can expect to be eating very seasonally. That means they will be eating plenty of greens during the spring; tomatoes, summer squash and peppers during the summer, then potatoes and winter squash in the fall. In addition, our CSA is sharing the risk with the farm: If we have a crop failure we may not be able to provide a full box for a week or so; however, when we have an abundant harvest, CSA members might find themselves sharing their food with others or freezing for the winter.
Where and when do subscribers pick up? Wednesdays at the farm or Waynesville Tailgate Market; Saturdays at the farm or Asheville Tailgate Market.
How many years have you been offering a CSA?
What makes your CSA special? Our farm has greenhouse space in production for growing crops in the soil -- that allows us to extend the season and have better quality control for crops that just don't thrive outdoors in our mountain climate.
New Moon Herbs Organic Farm
Gregg Adams, (828) 628-1272, email@example.com.
How would you describe your farm? We've been growing organic vegetables and herbs in Fairview since 1993.
How much does a share cost? $700 for 27 weeks.
What should a CSA member expect to receive? Seasonal vegetables to feed a family of two to four people, depending on your eating habits.
Where and when do subscribers pick up? Wednesday at the farm in Fairview or Saturday at the Asheville City Market.
How many years have you been offering a CSA? Nine years.
What makes your CSA special? You get premium quality, just-picked food in generous portions.
Our Farm at Richland Creek, Brevard
Kate Eastman, (828) 506-6426, firstname.lastname@example.org
How would you describe your farm?: Our Farm at Richland Creek is the first CSA in Transylvania County. We offer fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, with weekly pick-up locations in Brevard and at the farm site in Lake Toxaway/Quebec.
How much does a share cost?: Half shares are $325 and full shares are $600. Full shares are designed for a family of four, half shares for single people or couples. Share cost can be split into three payments throughout the season, with the first due April 15.
What should a CSA member expect to receive?: We will provide a bountiful share of fresh, seasonal vegetables, as well as culinary herbs. We will include melons and fresh-cut flowers in the peak of the summer. We include a weekly newsletter with events and recipes. A full list of our box contents can be found on our Web site: www.ourfarmatrichlandcreek.com. We are hosting two farm events over the season, one with complimentary u-pick pumpkins for members.
Where and when do subscribers pick up?: Poppies Gourmet Market on Tuesdays evenings; Our Farm at Richland Creek on Friday evenings and Transylvania Tailgate market on Saturday mornings.
How many years have you been offering a CSA?: This is our first year. Please help us grow by joining today!
What makes your CSA special?: We are education-focused. We are committed to bringing local youth to our farm: We have partnerships with Brevard High School, Muddy Sneakers, and the Boys and Girls Club. We also plan to offer workshops for members on canning, sauces, tincture-making etc.