Community Supported Agriculture gets started in Waterford, Old Lyme, Ledyard, Salem

Though knee-deep snow still covers the fields, local farmers are preparing for the upcoming growing season. 

“It’s hard with all the snow. Everyone’s sort of buried,” Allyson Angelini, owner of Full Heart Farm in Ledyard, said Thursday. “But on Monday we’re going to start planting salad mix and carrots in our high tunnel” greenhouse. 

Getting ready for spring also means local farms have begun taking sign-ups for their community-supported agriculture programs, which gives people the chance to buy directly from their growers by paying in advance for weekly supplies of fresh produce, meat and eggs. Today, Full Heart Farm and three other local farms will participate in CSA Sign-Up Day, a national marketing campaign to encourage people to register for a CSA at a time of year when farmers are most in need of income. 

“Buying a CSA share in late winter is important because farmers are making capital investments for this year’s harvest now and the CSA models means they do not need to finance these costs with costly credit,” Simon Huntley, creator of the National CSA Sign-up Day, said in a news release. He is owner of Small Farm Central, an online company that works with CSA farms across the country. 

Angelini said she’s been signing up about 60 families per year for her farm’s CSA programs, which began four years ago. Today, she hopes to get a running start on the 2015 list when customers, encouraged by the CSA Sign-up Day, go to her farm’s website and register. Families pay $700 for 26 packages of fresh-picked vegetables and herbs plus chicken or pork and recipes, provided once a week from May to November. 

“CSAs are such an important part of the local food movement,” she said. 

This is the first year southeastern Connecticut farmers have participated in CSA Sign-up Day, she said. Other farms participating are Provider Farm in Salem, Upper Pond Farm in Old Lyme and Hunts Brook Farm in Waterford. 

Rob Schacht, owner of Hunts Brook Farm, said about 75 families signed up for the CSA program at his farm last year, and he’s hoping for the same number this year. Families pay $625 for weekly basketfuls of fresh produce for 18 weeks, or $325 for biweekly baskets over the 18-week season. Customers usually make an initial deposit and pay off the balance in installments. 

“Being part of a CSA really connects you to your food, the farmer and where it’s grown,” Schacht said. “People come here once a week and they get to select from everything that’s coming off the farm that week.” 

Having CSA income this time of year is a big help, he said. 

“The CSA program is one of the most helpful models to keep local farms going,” he said. “It’s our backbone. It’s what’s holding us up.”

Local farms participating in CSA Sign-up Day are:

For a list of other local farms that offer CSA programs, visit: www.localharvest.com.

j.benson@theday.com

Twitter: @BensonJudy

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