Community Supported Agriculture celebrates local product

BELLVILLE — A local couple, engaged in providing more healthy food to clients and friends, wants people to know more about “Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) enterprises.

Friday is the third annual CSA Day, which recognizes providers of local food, and the people who support them.

Joan and Reed Richmond have a farm, Meadow Rise, outside Bellville, were they grow goods for people who join their CSA.

A person subscribing to a CSA agrees to receive food from a local grower during prime production months. A CSA packet of vegetables of different types is assembled for the purchaser, who then gets to take home items, including radishes, greens, garlic scapes, tomatoes.

People agreeing to participate in a CSA pay a price set by the grower. That amount, paid in advance, covers production for the entire season.

The Small Farm Central’s CSA Farming Annual Report said the most popular time to join a CSA is at the end of February, Joan Richmond said. This is why the annual CSA Day was created, to encourage people wishing to get into more healthful eating patterns.

The Richmonds charge $525 for a full share, which gets the buyer eight to 12 items a week. Half shares are $375, which Joan Richmond says can be for people who don’t necessarily cook dinner every day “but still love the fresh food when they do.”

Richmond says people who sign up by March 17 for their CSA will get a $25 discount.

People who have joined the Richmonds’ CSA have food delivered to The Happy Grape in Lexington.

CSAs have become popular in the “local food” movement. They guarantee growers an amount of money before the harvesting begins, and help calculations about supplies and time usage become more predictable.

Richmond distributed information about the CSA Day, saying it is for people who are committed to “eating healthful foods and preparing them for their families; supporting their local farmer; being kind to our planet; learning something new; and being adventurous in the kitchen.”

The Richmonds have been farming outside Bellville for 15 years. Reed Richmond is a health educator at Richland Public Health, and Joan Richmond teaches writing at The Ohio State University Mansfield regional campus.

Joan Richmond said their farming makes up a good part of the family income.

Being a”sustainable” farmer is as much about “economic sustainability as ecological sustainability,” Joan Richmond said.

Most supermarket food is “processed,” Richmond said, and all contain soy and corn products. Farmers who grow those two commodities are “heavily subsidized by the USDA,” she said. “Non-processed food” — meats and vegetables, mostly come from “large outfits that also receive a lot more breaks to make food more affordable for people.”

Richmond said that means “in other words, it’s cheap.”

The Richmonds sell at a Saturday farmers’ market in Columbus, in Clintonville.

Richmond said many think of farmers’ markets as a “vegetable garage sale” and that they can probably get bargains there.

Foods grown by a sustainable agriculture grower aren’t necessarily going to fit with that conception because a diligent grower has concerns to cover, like the quality of soil used, Richmond said.

“We grow food that is good for our environment. I want my soil to be more healthy each year, rather than less. In essence, I’m a soil farmer, since good soil will grow my vegetables,” she said.

Local businesses are supported, Richmond said. She deals with Elzy’s and Smith Hardware, so money she uses to purchase supplies goes back into the community.

“Having said all that, it’s still hard to make a living as a farmer these days, with no off-farm income,” she said.

Some young people, “who don’t have a mortgage and a lot of other debt,” are becoming farmers and some make a go of it, she said.

Urban agriculture is going to be the “next hot thing,” she said, and she finds that “very encouraging.”


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