The Gillings Sustainable Agriculture Project: A Gillings Innovative Laboratory


A very early sign of spring
December 2, 2009, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Farmers Market, Food, Sustainable Agriculture | Tags: , ,

We’ve had our first hard frost of the season. Holiday advertisements can be seen everywhere. Tables at my farmer’s market are piled high with root vegetables and greens. All signs point to the final departure from the lingering mild temperatures of our North Carolina fall and the inevitable transition into a steadfast winter. I’m the first to admit that I’m a wimp when it comes to cold. I keep telling myself that our winter temperatures surely aren’t as bad as more northern states, but I can’t help but long for those warm spring days that seem so far away as the weather demands heavy coats and the daylight gets shorter and shorter. But today, as I was compiling some information for a new Tarheel guide for the UNC Gillings School of Public Health that will feature local restaurants, farmer’s markets and other agricultural related enterprises (more on this project later), my heart warmed to a very early sign of spring. It’s time for CSA sign ups!

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs offer an opportunity to get affordable produce delivered regularly to your home, or to a convenient drop-off point in your neighborhood. Regardless of the CSA, prices are relatively inexpensive compared to buying retail, and you can choose to have delivery weekly, semi-weekly, monthly, or seasonally. Options depend on the program and some farms offer half shares in addition to full shares. A full share typically represents enough produce for a family of four for a week. Some farms offer add-on services: in addition to receiving produce, CSA participants can add on fresh flowers, honey, cheese or value added products like jams and jellies. CSA’s are most typically available during the main growing season from spring through early fall but some even continue through late fall and winter.  Sign ups start around this time of year. You can choose a CSA for a particular farm (or sometimes a few farms working together), where your delivery contains produce from those farms only. Your delivery “subscription” helps fund the farms’ operations for that period of time. Typically farms provide newsletters and recipes along with boxes of produce to help participants learn about agriculture and how to prepare the food each week. Often times CSA participants claim that they get much more produce than they could imagine and find themselves sharing the abundance with friends and family. It can be a great idea for a group of single people, such as students living near one another, to go in on a CSA subscription together.

I was impressed at the number of farms in our area that offer CSA subscriptions, while also happy to see that many farm websites advised folks to sign up early, as their subscriptions quickly sell out. Debbie Roos, NC Agricultural Extension Agent, has compiled a great list with farms in the Piedmont region that offer CSA’s along with their contact information. Click here to view.

As the days get shorter and the weather turns cold, consider an investment in a CSA subscription. It’s a great way to support a local farmer, increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet and, it may even warm you up a bit as you dream about a big, juicy, sun warmed tomato as we head into the December cold.

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