CSA offers customers a share of the farmer's green thumb

By Kathleen Baglio Humphreys
Union Leader Correspondent
June 16. 2014 8:56PM
Fresh strawberries from Barrett Hill Farm in Mason, one of many New Hampshire farms offering Community Supported Agriculture programs for customers.Kathleen Baglio Humphreys (Kathleen Baglio Humphreys/Union Leader Correspondent)

MASON — You want garden fresh vegetables but just don't have the green thumb, land or time to plant then tend to your own garden all summer long? Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is an affordable and healthy option.

Early in the season, CSA customers buy shares of a local farm’s harvest. They visit the farm to daily or weekly to pick up their portion of the produce. They share in the bounty of a good harvest but also the risk in case of a poor growing season.

CSA programs help provide working capital and income for the farmer at a time of year when there may be no produce to sell, yet they need to plant their crops, buy fertilizer or feed.

“Joining a CSA is one of the most effect ways of preserving farmland in our area,” said Milford resident Marti Kennedy. “Our money goes directly to the farm, period, no middle man. The food is head and shoulders fresher and tastier from a local farmer than a grocery store.” Kennedy is a CSA member at Trombly Gardens and Holland Farms, both in Milford.

Many retail farms offer CSA programs, and some have created unique solutions for their customers who want farm fresh products but prefer flexibility.

Barrett Hill Farm on Fitchburg Road in Mason realizes customers are busy, so it delivers to selected workplaces, including Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, Flir in Nashua and Parker and UltraSource in Hollis. Customers receive their fresh picked packages once a week for 15 weeks.

“We offer four different options to CSA members so they can tailor it to what their needs are and what they want,” said Beth LeClair of Barrett Hill. The packages include “Surprise,” a grocery bag filled with pre-selected in-season fresh harvested items; “Shop When You Want” allows customer to pick up what they want when they want; the “Cook” package includes two recipes and all the products and seasonings to create the menu; “Canning, Freezing and Storing” includes a choice of seasonal bushel-quantity of fruit or vegetables with instructions on how to can.

They also offer demonstrations and in-home canning parties.

Barrett Hill is a three-generation family-owned farm. Its CSA season starts on Friday, but the farm will open Wednesday for pick-your-own strawberries on 10 acres with stunning views.

Besides the traditional summer produce, Barrett Hill Farm also raises its own beef, grows peaches as well as fall crops such as pumpkins and winter squash.

Sean Trombly from Trombly Gardens on North River Road in Milford had concerns about pre-packaged shares, realizing that customers may not want all the products in their package. So he created a debit system, giving customers to come when they want and buy what they want. “The debit system is very flexible for me and for my customers. They still buy into the farm early season. It’s good for me for income and they get a value of the gift card and discounts to come to the farm whenever they want and select the products they want,” said Trombly.

The cards are also good at farmer’s markets in Amherst, Merrimack and New Boston, where Trombly Gardens has a farm stand.

Trombly Gardens’ debit cards go on sale in September for the following growing season. Cards purchased before December 20 are eligible for a 15 percent discount while cards sold January through March are eligible for 10 percent discounts and April’s shareholders can enjoy a 5 percent discounts on products grown on the farm.Cards can be reloaded during the season with a 2 percent discount.

Many families want to support local agriculture and buy quality local food. “They are getting good produce at a good discount and they are loyal customers,” said Trombly.

For more details visit www.tromblygardens.com or www.barretthillfarm.com.

For a list of CSA farms in New Hampshire, go to tinyurl.com/oxrkrd3


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