Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CSA fair at Noel Wien

The Community Supported Agriculture (Meet Your Local CSA!) fair at Noel Wien Library on Sunday, March 13, was a well-attended success. Farmers offering anywhere from 15 to 180 shares met with prospective members, providing brochures with information on the CSA model and particulars on membership with their farms. Different farms have different prices, different produce, and different share terms; a few, like Arctic Roots Farm, offer member discounts on farm produce purchased, while most, like Rosie Creek Farm, give their members a set amount of groceries provided as a share of the harvest (that share being purchased outright at the beginning of the season). The growing season was estimated to be from 14 to 18 weeks (June to September), depending on the farm and the summer weather, and a full share anywhere from $450 to $600. Some farms offered half shares, flower shares, herb shares, tomato shares, late-season storage vegetable shares, or other options.

Two farms, DogWood Gardens and Basically Basil, included items such as totes or cookbooks with their shares. Gretchen Kerndt of Basically Basil explained that it was simply easier and cost about the same to provide a cookbook to shareholders (From Asparagus to Zucchini, A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce; see description here) as to write up a newsletter and xerox recipes each week.

Member education and community building are important features of the CSA farming model, and this was reflected in the informative displays that the various farmers brought to the event. A slide show played continuously throughout the event, showing scenes from different farms and CSA pickups, while each farm's table had information on types of crops grown, samples of local honey or potatoes, photos of the farm, staff or family members, and the like. John Dart of Dart-AM Farms had traveled the farthest to be at this event, from Manley Hot Springs, and has members from Manley to North Pole (this farm's growing season is the longest of all there, due to the springs: 20-22 weeks!).

Calypso Farm & Ecology Center of Ester, one of the larger farms, with about 80-100 shares available, is a nonprofit and heavily involved in educational efforts, and has helped (to date) six local schools establish gardens and farmstands that are part of the educational curriculum at each school. Feedback Farm, on Chena Hot Springs Road, is one of the smaller farms, offering 15 to 20 shares. Their whole family (parents and three children) was present at the fair.

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