CSA programs bring the farm to you

Do you know where your food comes from? Would you like to find a more sustainable way to bring food to your table? The Geauga Family Farms Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is bringing fresh, organic produce to several pick-up points throughout the Heights for the 2010 season.

Members of the general public can become partners or shareholders of a local farm by purchasing a portion of that farm’s growing season. In return, members receive a weekly delivery of fresh produce from the farm. By investing in the farm at the beginning of the growing season, members provide money to the farm when it is most needed.

The increase in the number of CSA programs available throughout the region is a testament to the success of this approach, as well as to the community’s growing interest in supporting local farms. Northeast Ohio produces a wide variety of produce, and many shareholders appreciate meeting the people who grow their food.

Last year, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights hosted a pick-up site, with 50 members for its initial year. The program was open to anyone, and members picked up their bags of produce on Saturday mornings in the parking lot. Additional sites have been added for the 2010 season, including Ruffing Montessori school in Cleveland Heights, First Unitarian Church of Cleveland in Shaker Heights and the Maltz Jewish Community Center in Beachwood.

In addition to providing fresh produce to its members, the Geauga Family Farms program provided an another benefit to the greater Heights community. Last season, produce remaining at the end of the weekly two-hour pick-up period at St. Paul’s was delivered to the Heights Emergency Food Center, providing fresh food to families in need.

The Geauga Family Farms CSA includes only certified organic farms for the 2010 season. While recognizing that this can create additional challenges, such as pest control and fertilization, the farmers are committed to practices that sustain the earth and its soil.

"If we can’t perform our work with integrity, then it’s not worth doing," stated Noah Yutzy, Jr., the head of the ten-member cooperative. It should be noted, however, that while all of the vegetables provided are certified organic, some of the fruit is not. Members can choose whether they wish to receive these items.

The growers have been especially active this winter. In addition to normal activities like maple syrup production and crop planning, the farmers have been building new greenhouses to extend the growing season. Many of the seedlings have already been started, and a focused approach to ensure that the farmers are growing the types and amounts of fruits and vegetables of interest to their members is underway. For more information on Geauga Family Farms and their organic CSA program, go to www.geaugafamilyfarmsllc.org.

Michelle Bandy-Zalatoris is a Cleveland Heights resident with an interest in local food and a background in urban design and planning.

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Volume 3, Issue 4, Posted 8:56 AM, 03.25.2010