Farmers working to 'create a local economy'

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Posted: Monday, August 5, 2013 10:00 am

TROUTMAN - Murdock Farms is the latest local farm to consider setting up a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for its customers.

Co-operator Melissa Suggs put out a feeler on Facebook this week to gauge interest in a meat CSA.

“I know why my family and I chose to do a vegetable CSA,” she said. “The food tastes better when it is locally grown. As a producer, I was interested in ways we could market to the people who are interested in buying the product we are providing.”

Community Supported Agriculture, more commonly called a CSA, is a locally controlled form of agriculture distribution where consumers contract with farmers for a share of their crops.

In the coming weeks, Suggs plans to discuss the option with her husband, Graham, and brother, Doug Haneline, to see if contracting with other farmers to sell their grass-fed beef is a viable option.

 “You have to have a lot of faith in your farmer that they know what they doing,” she said.

Most CSAs require customers to pay up-front for their produce. While some, like Farm 430, work independently, others opt to work with several farms in North Carolina.

Mills Family Farms in Mooresville, for example, has been working with Calahaln Farm in Mocksville in a CSA.

Mills Family Farm co-owner Nicole Mills said people sign up at the beginning of the growing season. Based on the amount of people who sign up, the farmers pay for seeds and other items on the farm.

“Everything we’ve done on the farm has been at the customers’ request,” she said. “We had several customers say it would be great to get produce.”

The CSA currently has 32 customers who pick up their items each Saturday.

In addition to the produce, customers can also purchase some dairy items and meat, Mills said. In many ways, it is a one-stop shop, she said.

It is better economically for the farm, said Kim Anderson with Calahaln Farm. Unlike a Farmers’ market, where you aren’t guaranteed customers, a CSA provides a steady stream of customers.

This can also be tricky, she said, because you are promising to grow a list of crops, which depends on certain types of weather.

“I think people understand that,” she said.

A sense of community has developed among the patrons, who enjoy being able to ask the farmer directly about how the food is grown.

“People have been very pleased with what they’ve gotten this year” Mills said. “People get to know each other. They start talking about what recipes work and what didn’t work.”

Farm 430 co-owner Allison Stroud said the start of her home-delivery produce began through word of mouth.

It is a healthier option, and gives people produce that they wouldn’t regularly pick for themselves, she said.

Stroud said they usually offer enough produce for two to three people to have four to five servings.

People are thinking more about how what they eat impacts their health, she said. Many of the options at grocery stores aren’t the healthiest, she added.

Since the vegetables have been picked within one to two days of being delivered and local farmers use less pesticides and fertilizers, it can be a more healthful option, Stroud said.

“It makes a tremendous difference,” she said. “We are creating a local economy. That is so important.”