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Virginia Growers, Consumers Partner in Fruits, Vegetables

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The very freshest and most delicious fruits, vegetables and other farm products in Virginia are now just a click away.

At VirginiaGrown.com, even city dwellers can reap the rewards of farming as they pick up their weekly market basket at a designated location or have it delivered to their front doors. The concept is called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, and it allows consumers to invest in a share of what someone else's farm produces. Farms across Virginia are now signing up new members for 2011.

As of the first of the year, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) listed 85 CSA options on VirginiaGrown.com but the agency anticipates that it will add more as spring approaches. "We have seen an increase in consumer demand for CSAs the last couple of years," said Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner.

"I think there are several reasons for the increased popularity. Members know where all the food comes from, how it was grown, who harvested it and when. They learn to eat seasonally, enjoying foods that arrive according to nature's timetable. Everything the CSA provides is field-fresh, flavorful and nutritious because deliveries usually take place weekly, and the travel time and distance from farm to fork are kept to a minimum. But I also think a big part of the appeal is simply variety. Instead of two or three varieties of apples, subscribers may be able to choose from five or six, including some heritage varieties no longer grown on a large commercial scale."

Because of the wide variety of traditional, specialty, heirloom or even organic crops grown by CSA farmers, members can discover many new products and enjoy interesting new tastes.

Becky Latane of Blenheim Organic Gardens in Westmoreland County gives consumers recipes for the unknown varieties so they'll know how to prepare them. Many other CSAs distribute recipes and cooking tips to help cooks make the most of their innovative ingredients.


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