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Supporting local agriculture is simple as — C.S.A.

By Paul Viau | Mar 06, 2013
Photo by: File photo TRADE YOUR BUGGY FOR A BASKET — Get a weekly supply of food fresh from the farm with Community Assisted Agriculture.

Over the years, I’ve written more than my fair share of columns about fruits and vegetables. I’ve preached the advantages of ‘eating the rainbow,’ and promoted the benefits of getting your food ‘thousands of miles fresher’ from local growers.

This past year my wife and I brought eating healthy (and local) really close to home, when we shared a vegetable garden with neighbors.

To their credit, the Robinsons did most of the work, while Carol and I were silent partners, picking up a bag or box of fresh produce every few days.

This year, in master gardener speak, we’re not only going to "amend the soil," we’re also amending our agreement with our neighbors — so that we share much more of the work.

We’re also making an investment in a nifty aeroponic, vertical gardening system to feed our craving for fresh herbs and leafy greens. It’s called a Tower Garden, and it will turn a small section of our deck into a terraced, vertical garden.

I’ll share more information about Tower Garden this spring, so you all will know all about ‘The Whole Bloomin’ Thing.

But today I want to write about a growing trend (no pun) toward Community Assisted Agriculture — commonly called C.S.A.

C.S.A.'s are a time-tested and popular way for you and I (consumers) to buy fresh food in season directly from nearby farmers.

Basically, the farmer sells ‘shares’ of his anticipated crops to the public early in the spring. Interested consumers can purchase a share, (sometimes called a membership or subscription) and receive a box, basket or bag of fresh produce (usually weekly) all through the growing season.

The advantages of C.S.A. to the farmers are many. They receive payment for their crops early in the season, which helps their cash flow. By ‘marketing’ their crops in advance, they have more time to spend in the fields during harvest. And perhaps best of all, with C.S.A., farmers actually get to know the people who eat their food — and get positive feedback on their hard work.

For consumers, C.S.A. means a regular flow of farm-fresh produce and products from the grower(s) of their choice. They are exposed to new varieties of vegetables and broaden their eating experience. Finally, consumers really get to know the growers, become more knowledgeable, and many find that their children grow to prefer fresher foods, directly from ‘their’ farm.

I’m new to the whole C.S.A. program, but this year my wife and I are going to invest in Walnut Cove Farms, owned and operated by Joseph and Tara Cathey. We’ve gotten to know the Catheys over the years and applaud the fact that they are working the farm in Bethel Valley that his family has owned for more than 200 years.

Their focus is heirloom vegetables from local seeds (no GMO) and everything is grown non-certified organically.

Walnut Cove Farms supplies many local Haywood County restaurants, including Bourbon Barrel Beef & Ale, Frogs Leap Public House and Blue Rooster Southern Grill — three of my favorites. That’s good enough for me. I’ll gladly have a weekly supply of that kind of quality produce in my kitchen.

Another good reason to pick Walnut Cove Farms as your C.S.A. is their terms — instead of having to pay the bulk of the cost up front, Walnut Cove Farms asks only that you pay for two weeks in advance at the start of the season, then pay weekly as you pick up produce throughout the season. No money changes hands the last two weeks of the season, as you are pre-paid.

If you are interested in C.S.A. shares from Walnut Cove Farms, call Joseph Cathey at 283-1353. Call early, because their season starts around May 1, running (hopefully) through the end of November.