By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The 14th Street Y and sustainability organization Just Food are again partnering with Mountain View Farms to bring locally grown, organic produce to CSA members every week from June to October.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a partnership where community members purchase shares of the season’s harvest directly from the farmer and the 14th Street Y has been offering the program since 2008.
Frances Anderson, a member of the 14th Street Y, has been a volunteer organizer for the program since it began. The CSA originally partnered with a different farm located in upstate New York but Anderson said that Hurricane Irene devastated their farmland in 2011, bringing a sad end to the partnership.
“They weren’t able to continue doing CSAs in the city after that because their losses were so huge,” she said. “It wasn’t uncommon that year for a lot of farms in that corridor, unfortunately. The destruction of farmland was really quite significant. It was kind of a shock to us and we never really thought about what a catastrophic year would mean.”
Many of the farms upstate were scaling back after Irene but Just Food helped the CSA at the Y to connect with Mountain View Farm, which was a little more sheltered from flooding due to its location in Western Massachusetts, and so far the partnership has been working well. “We really appreciate the consistency in the quality and quantity of the vegetables we get from them, and because of the way in which they operate, with 90 percent of their clientele being CSAs as opposed to farmer’s markets, they just have a really consistent supply,” Anderson said.
While the 14th Street Y provides infrastructure support for the CSA, Anderson said that it’s primarily a volunteer-driven program. Some volunteers dedicate more time than others but anyone who signs up for a CSA membership is required to work one shift throughout the season. This just means helping out with distribution for a couple of hours and the policy isn’t particularly strict.
“People work crazy hours, so sometimes people need help from family because they can’t be there themselves and that’s fine,” Anderson said. “Teenagers have done shifts for their parents. It’s not onerous work; it’s just to help it run smoothly.”
Summer and fall shares include carrots, bok choy, lettuce, beets, cabbage, kohlrabi, spinach, fennel, Swiss chard, cantaloupe, a variety of squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, onions, scallions, eggplants, peppers and others. Mountain View Farm has partnered with nearby farms and orchards this year to add a fruit share, which will include strawberries, blueberries, apples and pears.
Full shares, $600, are available for weekly pick-up and and half shares, $310, are collected bi-weekly. The shares are available to pick up on Thursdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Y. A normal week’s share averages about $27. Anderson said that a full share every week is good for a family of four that eats a lot of vegetables.
“My family of three gets a weekly distribution but for some families that’s way too much,” she said.
She added that while half-shares come out every other week, it can involve a lot of planning to make sure certain things are eaten before they go bad and if there are individuals who want to participate, volunteers with the CSA can connect those people with each other to split a half share. Even with the most meticulous planning, CSA members are sometimes still overloaded with vegetables they are pressured to eat before they start rotting and Anderson said that they are hoping to offer some additional programming at the Y this year to help alleviate that problem.
“We’re trying to have a couple of canning demonstrations,” she said. “Learning how to can or how to pickle vegetables that you have in crazy abundance are great skills to learn and not ones that we tend to pick up when living in the city, so we want to teach people how to preserve their share for the rest of the season.”
Anderson noted that even though there are some vegetables that don’t get claimed every week, none of it goes to waste.
“Everything left over that isn’t picked up by CSA members gets donated to the Sirovich Center and they love it,” she said. “It adds fresh vegetables to what they make there. Nothing gets thrown wholesale into the compost.”
CSA membership is open to everyone, not just 14th Street Y members, and the deadline to register is May 30. For more information or to register, visit Mountain View Farm CSA’s website.
By Maria Rocha-Buschel