Community Sponsored Agriculture comes to Berlin
BERLIN — Even though the threat of frost hasn’t completely passed, Christie McDowell of The Good Farm, has decided to gamble a bit and begin planing hardy, cold weather spring crops. After the success of last year’s Buy Local Challenge, McDowell hopes to be able to expand her CSA and wants to make sure, as the only CSA farmer in Worcester County, that she can amply meet whatever demand there is.
CSA stands for community sponsored agriculture and means literally that — members of a community paying a farmer to grow food specifically for them.
It’s a notion that has continued to gain traction over recent years as people have become more open to the prospect of fresh organic food and therefore driven demand.
The way a CSA is structured is the farmer establishes how much food they expect to grow and divide the anticipated harvest into shares. Participants then purchase the number of shares one share is usually plenty for a family of four and pick up their portion weekly at a designated spot.
The biggest benefit for shareholders is that, since it is in the farmer’s best interest to be conservative when sharing out their planned crops, the shares tend to be generous but always at least meet the guaranteed amount.
Moreover, the shares are by necessity calendar correct and as fresh as can be usually only a few days out of the ground at the oldest.
While Wicomico County has had several successful CSAs over the years — Provident Farm grew to the point that they even had a pickup spot in Berlin — Worcester County hasn’t produced its own, a fact that astounded McDowell.
When Provident Farm ended its CSA program the bulk of the overflow went to Ted Wycall, who owns Greenbranch Farm in Salisbury. Wycall has become something of a crusader for local producers, calling for reduced restrictions on locally grown produce and livestock. Until McDowell joined him, Wycall was one of the few local producers who sold fowl, beef, and pork he raised himself in addition to organic vegetables.
Growing on a small plot on Route 611 last year, McDowell has an amount of success with the small CSA she ran last year as well as at the farm stand and the AGH Farmers Market. The Berlin Farmers Market has no room for the Berlin resident so this year her shareholders can make their weekly pickups either at Go Organic — the organic store occupying the Peach Shed in the municipal parking lot — or at a West Ocean City location to be determined.
Shares always include greens, root vegetables, fruiting vegetables, and herbs. McDowell said that root vegetables usually include items such as potatoes, turnips, and the like while the fruiting vegetables are more of the tomato, cucumber, squash variety. Herbs can be anything from dill to onions and garlic.
As she enters her second year running the CSA full time, McDowell is applying some of the lessons she learned last year as well as taking advantage of some of what she sees as unmet area demands when it comes to fresh, locally raised food.
The first change is that shares will now be available in large and small to better accommodate both families and couples. A large share can be a lot of food for two people, especially if the CSA isn’t their primary source of food.
The other novelty McDowell has added is the meat option. For a separate fee, shares can include chicken, duck, beef or pork, depending upon what is available that week.
All the animals are raised either on her Berlin farm or one of the other plots of land she tends.
To find out more about the Good Farm visit www.wegrowgoodfood.com or call 410-713-8803.
ident so this year her shareholders cor call 410-713-8803.