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Around The Grange
Community farms offer fresh produce, friendship
 

By Quannah Leonard (Waterbury Republican-American 4/20/10)

  APRIL 24, 2010 --

On about three acres off Boulder Road in Cheshire, people in gloves, hats and boots gathered Wednesday morning to prepare beds for tiny bunches of onions. Bees crawled over dandelions, and birds chirped as the workers - called shareholders - dug deep into the soil. They have paid a fee up front, and agree to work the land. In exchange, they receive a gamut of fresh produce at Boulder Knoll Community Farm CSA. "I came to learn," said Domingo Medina, 45, of New Haven. "I'm a city boy. I really believe in this."

Medina is among 53 share holders, or members, here at Boulder Knoll. This operation is one of more than 40 Community-Supported Agriculture farms that flourish across the state. Each CSA farm is a bit different. Generally, a person will purchase a share and pick up boxes of produce each week from the farm. Some farms require work, and some deliver to members.

"The growth of CSA has exploded statewide," said Steve Reviczky, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association.

Connecticut has had these types of operations for some time, but they have blossomed in recent years, he said. Ten years ago, there were about 10. Today, the state boasts 42.

As they have grown and proved successful, more farmers see an opportunity, and more consumers are aware they exist, Reviczky said.

Boulder Knoll has been a CSA farm for two years.

It's on the old Lassen Farm, comprised of 95 acres owned by the town of Cheshire. The Friends of Boulder Knoll, a local non profit, is leasing nearly 3 acres for the CSA, said Brenda Caldwell, the farmer.

Last year, it had 34 members; this year it has 53.

More than 20 people are on a waiting list, she said.

A person can buy a share for $475, but the member has to work at least 12 hours. It costs less for a share if the member is willing to work more. It's $275 for 30 hours, and $150 for 60 hours.

Harvest begins in mid-June and continues through mid-October. Shareholders not only get boxes of a variety of produce from Swiss chard to leeks but they can pick herbs and strawberries.

This year, their share will include fruit from High Hill Orchard in Meriden.

Off in the distance, five workers prepping the beds all just happened to be 30- to 60-hour shareholders. They used their hands and hoes to break up the soil so large sweet onions, onion plants and tiny onions can be planted.

"Those shareholders get really closely involved," Caldwell said.

Medina works a 60-hour share with Bob Carruthers, 62, of Bethany. If Medina can't be here, Carruthers comes. On Wednesday, both came to the farm. Caldwell, of Bethany, a former elementary school teacher and paralegal, patiently instructed members and also jumped in to break up the soil.

"Really hack and get in there, Domingo," she said.

"Be aggressive."

Medina said he will bring his 6-year-old son, Simon, to learn this, too.

Farther down the wide row of beds, Amanda Rollins, 31, of Cheshire, talked with Marianne and Bill Eagleson, also of Cheshire, while pulling weeds. Rollins said she chose a 30-hour share because it's cheaper, and it's nice to have an excuse to get dirty. Doing this also will allow her family to eat a healthy variety of vegetables this summer, she said.

Marianne Eagleson, 64, said she and her husband, 67, wanted to be part of the movement.

"We're both retired, and it's something we can do together," she said.

In Goshen, at Frostfire Farm, there are still a few shares available.

Owner Elaine C. Frost said her farm is smaller, with only 15 shares. She doesn't require members to work the land. However, this year she is looking for someone who might want to do a total work share. She charges $475 for a share, which runs from June to November. People pick up their produce at the farm.

"I like having people come here better than going out to market," Frost said. "It also, I think, provides people with a more direct connection with where their food comes from if they come and actually see it growing."

Gazy Brothers Farm in Oxford has been around for about 20 years, and this is the fourth year for its CSA, said Edward Gazy, the owner. The family initially started a CSA because they had leftover produce in late November and December that wouldn't make it to the farmers' market. So they offered their produce to shareholders, and were able to bring in money in the off season.

Now Gazy offers CSA in three different time periods, spring, summer and fall/winter.

 

 
 
 

 
     
     
       
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