Organic Consumers Association

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Eat-Local Movement 'a Growing Thing'

Most gardens are buried in inches of snow. But that doesn't mean it's not possible to get fresh vegetables in Concord.

Next month, Larry Pletcher, owner of the Vegetable Ranch in Warner, is starting a winter CSA and farmers market. A CSA - an acronym for community supported agriculture - will give members a chance to pre-buy shares of the farm's produce, then pick up fresh lettuce, bok choy and other fresh veggies every two weeks from the end of February through early May.

"It's becoming a growing thing," Pletcher said. "I know lots of people interested in local foods, the local situation, but everyone wonders what can they eat locally during the winter."

Pletcher has run the Vegetable Ranch as an organic farm since 1988. He has been working there full time for about seven years, selling his goods at farmers markets throughout the area.

In the summer, he participates in the Local Harvest CSA, which includes a large number of farms around Concord, and the Kearsarge Mountain CSA, a smaller program run from his farm.

This year, after putting up a new greenhouse, Pletcher decided to start his own CSA in the winter. He has stored potatoes, onions, beets and carrots, which will be distributed. He also has three greenhouses filled with lettuce, spinach, bok choy, chard and kale. Come spring, there should be fresh radishes, beets and carrots.

Pletcher said that some vegetables, like lettuce, need to be grown in heated greenhouses. Others, like spinach, are simply covered in an unheated greenhouse. The greenhouses generate solar warmth, and covering the vegetables in mid-afternoon keeps the heat in. "It's amazing," Pletcher said. "You have days when it's down 5, 6 below. You go out the next day and they're not frozen."

Joining the CSA costs $185, paid in advance, and Pletcher will accept the first 50 people who want to buy shares. Members will be able to pick up their vegetables at an industrial building at 145 Sheep Davis Road. The first pickup will be Feb. 26 and will continue biweekly through May 7.

Pletcher also hopes to turn the pickup site into a farmers market, inviting other local farmers to sell products such as bread, meat and maple syrup.

If this year's program is successful, Pletcher hopes to continue it in future years, starting earlier and expanding his offerings.

"We have big plans next year," Pletcher said.

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