Op-Ed..Community supported agriculture yields yummy produce

By Deborah Weiss
November 16, 2007

I love Wednesdays! On this day, from June through December, my neighbor and I make a weekly pilgrimage to our local community supported agriculture site to pick up our produce for the week.

We pull up to the garage turned vegetable store of a local homeowner and volunteer on Bedford Road, where we find whatever bounty happens to be ready for harvesting this week. It’s always a little bit of a surprise.

The freshly picked and locally grown organic produce is loaded on to refrigerated trucks in Kinderhook, N.Y. earlier in the day. From there, it makes the journey to various pick up sites just like ours, as far south as New York City, 125 miles from their starting point at Roxbury Farm.

One of the country’s largest CSAs – Roxbury Farm, Kinderhook, N.Y.

I’m a big fan of Roxbury Farm, which happens to be one of the country’s largest community supported agriculture ventures, or CSA. I, along with approximately 1000 other members, help finance their annual farm operations through prepaid, yearly subscriptions. This arrangement supplies the farmer with the working capital needed to purchase seeds, supplies and equipment, meet payroll, distribution costs, etc. He need not worry about marketing his produce during the growing season and is relieved of financial worry due to potential crop devastation caused by uncooperative weather, disease or animal poachers. Instead, we all share in the risk.

As a multi-year member I know that the risk is well calculated. It has always produced a high return on investment, and not just in monetary terms. While it’s true that the cost is often below retail, the quality of our food is where we really reap our reward. It simply tastes better. It’s better for you too. It spends less time on the shelf, and therefore is filled with more nutritional goodness than its supermarket counterparts. It’s organically grown, and therefore free of the toxic chemicals that can wreck havoc on our bodies over time.

Chance to try new vegetables

During pick-up season, planning meals around the week’s produce becomes natural. That’s a healthy habit worth cultivating any time of year! There are opportunities to try vegetables you may never have heard of before; for me, I tried things like tatsoi (a type of green), garlic scapes (a curly “scallion looking” shoot that is part of the young garlic plant) and carnival winter squash for the first time. The weekly newsletter is filled with wonderful stories, anecdotes, vegetable storage tips, recipe ideas and of course information on farm legislation. There’s even a quiet pleasure I take when surveying the craggy and misshapen produce I sometimes receive, knowing that while they might never stand up to the cosmetic rigors of most supermarkets, they are filled with the flavors and vitamins all too rare in that same store.

So at this time of year, I’d like to give special thanks to Jean-Paul Courtens and Jody Bollyuyt, owners of Roxbury Farm, along with their entire farm crew. Their passionate commitment to the responsible stewardship of our land and environment sets a stunning example for all of us. As we sit down to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal filled with its cornucopia of delights, we know in large part, it’s them we’ll be thanking.

To learn more about Roxbury Farm, go to http://www.roxburyfarm.com/
General information about community supported agriculture can be found at: http://www.localharvest.org/

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