Let the CSA’s begin

Is it spring yet?

While the official start of the season is still a few weeks off, if you plan to celebrate its arrival with just-plucked greens, now's the time to subscribe to a community supported agriculture (CSA) plan. Local farmers are busily registering members, who will receive weekly boxes of fresh cabbages, cucumbers, potatoes, kale, eggs and such from May through October.

Although the acronym rightly conjures up visions of ruddy-faced farmers happily digging in their organic dirt, it's worth noting that the Western North Carolina CSA scene has grown increasingly competitive. In some cases, subscription prices are mind-bendingly low. That can be a boon for consumers, but only if they bother to sort out the deals from the disasters in waiting. It's fair to quiz a farmer before writing a check. A CSA provider should be able to show you pictures of last year's boxes, or put you in touch with a previous subscriber. Working with a farmer is very different from shopping at the grocery store: A CSA subscription is a relationship, and should be approached as such.

Every CSA has its own personality, which is why Xpress is continuing the tradition of allowing farmers to present their programs in their own words. With help from the regional nonprofit Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, we sent surveys to CSA farmers across the region, asking them to outline their offerings: Read on for their responses.

Bearfoot Gardens

Glenville, Jackson County
www.bearfootcatering.com
(828) 230-4785

How would you describe your farm? A small beautiful farm, on top of a mountain, in a beautiful setting, growing organic veggies in very fertile old mountain soil where arrowheads still we find

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 20

How much does a share cost? Half-share, $350; Whole share, $500

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Spring greens, summer vegetables and fall veggies

Where and when do subscribers pick up? At the Cashiers tailgate market or the Blue Ridge Farmers Co-op in Glenville

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Two years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Roots. We are gonna grow lots of roots [and] green beans, peppers, greens, lettuce and taters.

What makes your CSA special? We are pioneers in our county, and we are gonna offer vouchers this year at the market.

Anything else we should know? Starting a farmer's co-op in a storefront on Hwy 107 in Glenville. We have six days a week for growers to sell their products.

Blackbird Farms

Flat rock, Henderson County
Billyhaynes1@aol.com
www.blackbirdcsa.com

How would you describe your farm? BB Farms is a family-operated farm cultivating 35 acres of organic and conventionally grown produce. We grow a little bit of everything and lots of tomatoes.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 125

How much does a share cost? Half-share, $400; Whole share, $700

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Members should expect to receive vegetables that are coming in at the season during that time. There will be five to 10 different products in a share per week.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? At the Hendersonville Co-op on Monday afternoons and the Flatrock Tailgate Market on Thursday afternoons. Other arrangements may possibly be available.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Two years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? 2010 will hopefully involve free-range chickens.

Cane Creek Asparagus & Company

Fairview, Buncombe County
www.CaneCreekCSA.com
canecreekcsa@bellsouth.net
(828) 628-1601

How would you describe your farm? Our Fairview family farm is serving the community with over nine continuous years of CSA farming experience. We use as many organic practices as possible. We market exclusively through CSA memberships!

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 80

How much does a share cost? Around $585, depending on the harvest. The season runs for 26 weeks, from early May through October/early November, and shares can be paid biweekly ($45) or monthly ($90). A commitment to the entire season is required via e-mail registration.

What should a CSA member expect to receive? A three-quarter bushel, recycled box filled with at least 8 to 12 different veggies per box every other week, starting in May. We grow over 60 varieties of seasonal gourmet vegetables during our local harvest season. The exact number of people a box feeds depends upon individual eating habits; you'll find photos of our CSA boxes at www.CaneCreekCSA.com.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? We have three convenient pickup locations in Fairview and Arden. Driving directions are on our Web site. Delivery is available in limited areas for an additional fee. Please call for details.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? 9 years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Our sustainable family farm is beginning its transition to solar power.

What makes your CSA special? We assume the total financial risk for the growing season. Our vegetable boxes are prepared six days a week, providing most CSA family members with the ability to choose a pickup day best for their lifestyle. Only vegetables grown on our farm will be put into our CSA Boxes. We employ no outside labor. We are water-conscious, using only drip irrigation, with water from drilled from wells to ensure water quality.

Anything else we should know? Excess vegetables are donated to charities, shelters and food banks on a routine basis. We have many repeat CSA members with whom we have built lasting relationships. But we are always happy to introduce new families to the concept of local food and "eating from the box!"

Cane Creek Valley Farm

Fletcher, Buncombe County
info@canecreekorganics.com
www.canecreekorganics.com
(828) 338-0188

How would you describe your farm? Our family farm offers certified organic vegetables, fruits and herbs with the option of including one dozen all-natural, free-range brown eggs in each CSA box throughout the 2010 season.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 200

How much does a share cost? Half-share, $360; Full share, $540; Half-share with eggs, $420; Full share with eggs, $600; Bi-weekly share, $300; Bi-weekly share with eggs, $330

What should a CSA member expect to receive? From May 20 to Oct. 20, plan to receive farm-fresh eggs and organic produce that's hand-picked, packed and delivered to you each week from our family farm.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Saturdays, Asheville City Tailgate Market, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Wednesdays, Asheville City Market South, 3 to 6 p.m.; Thursdays, The Mountain Community School and Evergreen Community Charter School, 2:30-5:30 p.m.; Thursdays, Flat Rock Tailgate Market and Fletcher Natural Food Store, 3-6 p.m.; Fridays, Fry Nursery and the farm, 3-6 p.m. More locations will be added before May. Find out how to make your community or business a drop off point today!

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Two years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? All-natural Beef and Pork Packages!!

What makes your CSA special?  Our family farm has been part of the Cane Creek Community for over 105 years, and we are the fourth generation to farm these fields. We are growing USDA certified organic vegetables, herbs and fruits and all-natural, free-range eggs, beef and pork.

Firefly Farm

Celo,  Yancey County
firefly@mtnarea.net
(828) 675-4739

How would you describe your farm? Situated on the South Toe River, Firefly is a diversified farm using sustainable practices and producing a variety of vegetables and 100-percent grass-fed Devon beef

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 30

How much does a share cost? $500 (payable in two installments)

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Seasonal produce, herbs and occasional flowers. A sample week's share in late July might include a pound of broccoli, two cucumbers, two heads of lettuce, a bag of arugula, two pounds of summer squash, fresh oregano and basil, one bunch of green onions, two pounds of potatoes and two heirloom tomatoes.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Wednesdays at the French Broad Tailgate Market, 2 to 6:30 p.m., or at the farm, 4 to 6:30 p.m.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Three years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Parsnips, celery and burgundy bush beans

What makes your CSA special? We grow mostly heirloom varieties and are able to provide leafy greens throughout the summer. We make recipes available each week, and CSA members are invited to visit the farm and spend time on the river.

Anything else we should know? CSA members benefit by receiving farm-fresh produce, forging a relationship with the people who grow their food and deriving a slightly higher dollar value than if they purchased retail.

Green Hill Urban Farm/Two Sides Farm

West Asheville/Mars Hill, Buncombe/Madison counties
greenhillurbanfarm@gmail.com
www.greenhillurbanfarm.com
(828) 775-0548

How would you describe your farm? Green Hill is a four-acre, model showcase of practical urban food production techniques, as well an access point for neo-agrarian culture and community. Our Two Sides is a pastoral, 70-year-old tobacco farm, which we have successfully transitioned into a certified organic vegetable farm.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 45 +/-

How much does a share cost? Half-share, $325 ($275 for returning members); Full share, $625 ($550 for returning members)

What should a CSA member expect to receive? We provide a weekly selection of vegetables in a serve-yourself approach in which members are free to mix and match what they would like, in an effort to reduce waste and meet each consumer's tastes as much as possible. We ask our members to bring their own bags, baskets, or boxes to further reduce wasteful packaging.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Wednesdays at Green Hill Urban Farm in West Asheville, 4 to 7 p.m.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Three years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Our Two Sides Farm is now Certified Organic, as is our greenhouse operation at Green Hill. Barkslip's Micro Nursery at Green Hill is expanding again to meet the need for locally produced fruit trees. We will be having several members' social/potlucks with live music. We are also going HD this year with video updates of our farms, activities, etc.

What makes your CSA special? First, our location. Green Hill is your neighborhood farm. Many of our members are able to walk or bike to pick-up their shares. Second, our community. We have a great diversity of folks who participate in the many different aspects of our business and an amazing array of creative and like-minded folks who support our farm through membership in our CSA.

Anything else we should know? In the off-season, manager Mike Fortune has spent a cumulative 4-1/2 months in Koroni, Greece, over the past four years, harvesting olives with Asheville resident and business proprietor Niko Theros of TherosOliveOil. From our intimate involvement in harvest, production, bottling and distribution, in 2010 we have the exclusive privilege of offering gallons of Theros Olive Oil through our farm for less than his company sells them through their Web site — and with no shipping charges. Further, we are able to distribute local honey, lamb, chicken, beef, turkey, eggs and more for the benefit of our shareholders and other local producers and farmers.

Gladheart Farms

Asheville, Buncombe County
www.gladheartfarms.com

How would you describe your farm? Local, certified organic farm offering a wide variety of high-quality vegetables

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 40

How much does a share cost? Varies from $800 down to $220, depending on options and size. We have something for just about everyone.

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Expect to receive 22 weeks of delicious vegetables, cut flowers and herbs. Artisan bread and organic coffee also available.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Fridays at the farm in Oakley, North Asheville or South Asheville

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Three years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Jumbo share

What makes your CSA special? By supporting Gladheart Farms, you are supporting a local, urban organic farm, thus preserving farmland in Asheville and helping promote the local food economy.

Anything else we should know? All of our farm equipment and greenhouses are powered by biodiesel that we make on the farm from local waste vegetable oil.

Green Toe Ground Farm

Burnsville, Yancey County
nicoleandgaelan@yahoo.com
(828) 675-0171

How would you describe your farm? A unique diversified farm, growing vegetables biodynamically

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 40

How much does a share cost? Half-share, $325; Full share, $535

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Carrots, beets, radishes, turnips, celeriac, potatoes, parsnips, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, fennel, squash, winter squash, herbs, melons, lettuce, spinach, kale, collards, cabbage, Swiss chard, leeks, onions, garlic, broccoli

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Wednesdays at the French Broad Tailgate Market, 2 to 6:30 p.m., or at the farm, 4 to 6 p.m.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Nine

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Sweet potatoes and cauliflower

What makes your CSA special? We are a biodynamic farm specializing in integrating animals into our vegetable production.

Anything else we should know? We are at a higher elevation than Asheville and can offer cool weather crops all season, plus hot weather crops.

High Country CSA

Watauga County
highcountryCSA@gmail.com
(828) 963-4656

How would you describe your farm? We are a multi-farm vegetable and fruit CSA that also offers access to local producers of dairy, meat, bread, and more. All of our growers and producers follow organic guidelines.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 100

How much does a share cost? $525

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Members receive an average of six to eight vegetables per week for 20 weeks. Members should receive over 50 different vegetable varieties throughout the season.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Pickups will be each Tuesday from June 1 through Oct. 12 at Bare Essentials Natural Market in Boone.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? This is our second year as a multi-farm CSA, following four years of Maverick Farms, running a single-farm CSA.

What's new for your CSA in 2010? We are welcoming more growers to our CSA in 2010, allowing us to provide both more variety and more of the "basics" that people eat every week.

What makes your CSA special? A multifarm CSA provides members with both variety and stability, since farmers divide production among themselves and lean on one another if problems with a certain crop arise.

Anything else we should know? All of our growers and producers follow organic guidelines, and our project organizes around the values of quality, trust, and community health.

Jake's Farm

Candler,  Buncombe County
www.localharvest.org
(828) 335-5184

How would you describe your farm? It's a certified organic farm on 11 acres with two greenhouses.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 35

How much does a share cost? $650

What should a CSA member expect to receive? A varied selection of gourmet vegetables, certified organic tomato products and a few jams. Flowers are available as an extra.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? At the farm, or various tailgate markets. Special arrangements are possible.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? 10 years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Limited production of products in jars by a certified organic processor

What makes your CSA special? We offer a varied selection of heirloom varieties.

Anything else we should know? We have some very satisfied customers and can provide references upon request.

Mountain Harvest Organics

Spring Creek, Madison County
farmer@mountainharvestorganic.com

How would you describe your farm? Our 130-acre 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 five acres in production.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 40

How much does a share cost? $600 for approximately 24 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? We deliver to the Haywood Historic Farmer's Market on Wednesday mornings and to the North Asheville Tailgate Market on Saturday mornings. Spring Creek residents pick up at the farm.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? 10

What's new for your CSA in 2010? No changes for 2010

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

Fairview, Buncombe County
newmoonherbs@aol.com
(828) 628-1272

How would you describe your farm? Our farm is a mix of leased bottom land and greenhouse space, specializing in organic heirloom food production. We have been farming in the Fairview community since 1993 using only organic methods.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? We like to keep it small and offer up to 20 shares.

How much does a share cost?  May 6-Sept. 30, $600; May 6-Oct.28, $700

What should a CSA member expect to receive? We grow a large variety of vegetable and herb crops, both indoors and out. Throughout the season, you will enjoy a good supply of fresh harvested food that's at its peak that week. As the weeks pass, the crops will change. We try to average at least 10 items per week in each box. We also include a recipe for the week that includes ingredients from that week's box.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Our main pickup will be at the farm in Fairview on Thursdays from 4 to 6:30 p.m.  We also have a very limited pickup on Saturdays at the Asheville City Market, 8 to 11 a.m.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? 10 years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? This year we are going to enhance our selection to include more Mediterranean heirloom varieties of vegetables and melons.

What makes your CSA special? I think the one biggest thing that sets us apart is our covered greenhouse space. This allows us to have a large selection right out of the gate, and also produce well into the fall. This also allows us the opportunity to have a much longer season for summer crops like tomatoes and cucumbers.

Anything else we should know? CSA's are very popular in this area, so don't wait to sign up because they fill up fast.

Our Farm at Richland Creek

Lake Toxaway, Transylvania County
Shelley@ourfarmatrichlandcreek.com
www.ourfarmatrichlandcreek.com
(828) 506-6426

How would you describe your farm? Our Farm is a sole proprietorship CSA farm that practices organic methods, although we are not certified organic.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? A total of 50 full shares; no limit on beef shares

How much does a share cost? Half-share, $325; Full share, $600; Beef half-share $125; Beef full share, $250

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Full shares get a three-quarter bushel box full of whatever is growing each week for the 20-week season. Half shares get half that amount each week. We are growing 30-plus different vegetables and several melons.  Full beef shares get 40-45 pounds of beef.  The cuts are a mix of ground beef, steaks, and roast. Half beef Shares get 20-25 pounds of the same.

Where and when do subscribers pick up?  Tuesdays or Fridays in Brevard from 4 to 7p.m.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Two years

What's new for your CSA in 2010?  BEEF SHARES!  We are teaming up with another local farm, Busy Bee Farm, to offer a separate beef share.

What makes your CSA special? The new option for a beef share!  Also, we were the first CSA in Transylvania County and now are one of only several CSA's in Transylvania.

Ten Mile Farm

Candler, Buncombe County
keepinitrural@gmail.com

http://tenmilefarm-nc.com

How would you describe your farm? We grow on about three acres following biodynamic practices. We rely on the signs of the moon and constellations to guide us as when to plant, cultivate, harvest and fertilize. Our fertility is generated from cover cropping, compost and special herbal and manure-based sprays.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 20

How much does a share cost? $525 for 20 weeks from mid-May to October

What should a CSA member expect to receive? A member can expect to receive, on average, seven to nine different items each week. We grow over 40 varieties of vegetables and focus on providing members with a well-rounded balance each week.

Where and when do subscribers pick up?  We have two pick up spots: the Downtown Wednesday Afternoon Tailgate Market, located in the parking lot next to the French Broad Food Co-Op; and on Saturdays, the Asheville City Market, located on the corner of Charlotte and Eagle Street.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Five

What's new for your CSA in 2010? Baby watermelon

What makes your CSA special? The diversity of our vegetables

Winter Sun Farms

Blue Ridge Food Ventures, A-B Tech Enka-Candler, Buncombe County
mlsurgi@awnc.org
www.wintersunfarmsnc.com
(828) 348-0130

How would you describe your farm? We obtain our fruits and vegetables from local farms that use organic or sustainable farming practices.

How many CSA shares are you offering this year? 150-200

How much does a share cost? $120

What should a CSA member expect to receive? Six to eight frozen products at each monthly pick-up. We also try to include something fresh in the winter months, too; and have farmers that are growing fresh lettuce in their greenhouses just for us. We also offer other products from local producers by special order: eggs, wild-caught salmon, Caribbean Fish Cakes, frozen tempeh and many other products made at Blue Ridge Food Ventures. We have great recipes on our Web site and in the handout that highlights one of our partner farms each month.

Where and when do subscribers pick up? Once a month. The main pick-up is at Blue Ridge Food Ventures. We also offer a downtown pick-up.

How many years have you been offering a CSA? Two years

What's new for your CSA in 2010? We'll be partnering with even more farms and offering more local products at each pick-up.

What makes your CSA special? We offer local produce, picked at peak flavor and then quickly processed and frozen for highest quality and convenience for the user. We offer vegetable purees that are great for soups and spreads; sliced and diced veggies ready for stir-fries or casseroles; and frozen berries that are great for smoothies and desserts.

Anything else we should know? Winter Sun Farms is a program of Blue Ridge Food Ventures, an incubator for growing food businesses.

Working with a farmer is very different from shopping at the grocery store: A CSA subscription is a relationship.

Photo by Jonathan Welch
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