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Community-supported agriculture allows people to support their local farmer

January 26. 2013 7:22PM

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a trend that is expanding in the Souhegan Valley and around the country.

Local consumers of fresh produce support their local farmers by pre-buying their fruits and vegetables, milk, and meat early in the season. This is the time when farmers have the most expenses and the least income.

In return for customer support, the farmers provide produce during the growing season. Some CSAs may also welcome help with farm chores as partial payment for food.

CSAs were founded in Europe and Japan in the 1960s. Farmers and consumers formed a cooperative to assure a safe and sustainable food supply. The idea was brought to America in the mid-1980s by Trauger Groh, who founded the Wilton-Temple Community Farm ( CSAs are all over the country now and represent a significant portion of a farm's income.

There are many different structures to CSA membership. It varies from being a farmer member in the operation to being strictly a consumer of the farm's products. Many CSAs have a "share" that consumers may purchase, and for that share they receive a set amount of produce available per week throughout the growing season. Sometimes extra produce is purchased outside of the CSA share they receive.

Many CSAs have set times for pickup, once or twice a week. The downside of a traditional CSA is that consumers may receive products they don't use or want, or volumes they can't handle, or not enough of what they wanted.

There are variations to make the CSA more consumer-friendly. Some CSAs are set up so buyers pay fixed amounts but can choose product selection, and use a farm-supplied debit card to "spend" the CSA credit. Other farms allow variable amounts to be committed to the CSA, and the consumer redeems their credit at will as the season progresses. This system allows the consumer flexibility to help the farmer and still get choices and amounts of products.

What does the farm get from the CSA structure? The CSA farm or farm organization is able to have a better idea of cash flow early in the year. If the majority of the business for the farm is from the CSA, then it allows for better budget planning and uses the resources of the farm to provide the most benefit for the members of the CSA. The farmer has an early source of income when there might not be anything available to sell. This money can be used for seed and fertilizer purchases to get the farm going without the farm having to borrow. The farmer also is assured that there is an outlet for the farm products already established. Fresh produce markets may vary, but CSA farmers already know they have consumers for their products. For CSAs that make labor a integral part of the commitment, the farmer has a ready and committed supply of labor.

In the Souhegan Valley, the following CSA farms are offering CSA plans this year:

. Temple Community Farm, Wilton: Bio-dynamic cooperative farm, contact Anthony Graham at or call 654-5751.

. Holland Farm, 269 Osgood Road, Milford: Pesticide-free vegetables, with a large pick-your-own garden, Contact Marcy O'Connell at or call 673-0667.

. Ledge Top Farm, Wilton: Chemical-free vegetables, berries and eggs. Visit or call Tom Mitchell at 654- 6002.

. McCloud Orchards, Milford: Vegetables, apples, flowers. or call 673- 3544.

. Trombly Gardens, Milford: Vegetable, berries, beef, pork. Email

. Country Dreams CSA, Nashua: Website at or call Drema Cady at 878-3437. Also email

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