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Community Supported Agriculture Movement Takes Root in Maryland

Community farms share their harvests by Megan Kuhns Special to The Gazette (Frederick County, Tennessee)
Mar. 24, 2005

Tom Fedor/The Gazette

Phil Freedman, who runs House-in-the Woods community farm with his wife, Ilene, gets some help from his 3-year-old son Noah planting seeds for chard and weed onion sprouts.

Debra Kattler of Frederick is in her fourth season as a consumer for a local "Community Supported Agriculture" farm, House-in-the-Woods, near Adamstown.

Kattler supports the farm by volunteering there and paying for supplies before the season starts. As a shareholder, Kattler must help farmers Ilene and Phil Freedman grow their crops by weeding, planting seeds and harvesting three times a year, and in turn, her family receives a weekly share of the harvest.

"I like the idea of supporting local business and of eating a little closer to the source," Kattler said.

Many Community Supported Agriculture farms are selling their shares throughout the month of March to prepare for the upcoming season, which lasts for 20 weeks at House-in-the-Woods.

The farms are based on relationships between the farmer and the consumer; they work together to maintain the farmland and provide food.

The concept came from Japan in the mid-1960s, according to the House-in-the-Woods Web site. A group of Japanese women were concerned about pesticides, processed foods and diminishing local food sources, so they formed a trust relationship with their farmers. In 1986, a farmer brought the idea from Switzerland to Massachusetts.

Ilene Freedman said most of the farms grow organic food and many are certified organic, a designation that often appeals to the consumer.

The farmer gets an advanced payment to cover pre-season costs, so that when the season starts, they can focus on the crops. The consumer receives fresher and usually organic vegetables and learns about where their food comes from by helping on the farm.

Freedman said consumers do not need farming experience to buy a share; they just need to be willing to learn about crops and to appreciate eating fresh foods.

Freedman estimates one share at a Frederick farm would range between $400 and $650. She noted that shares always include vegetables, but some also include herbs, flowers, and fruit.

She said the quality and variety of the produce sold at the farms is much better than that of grocery store vegetables because the produce isn't grown to be durable for packing and shipping. She also said community farms supply more diversity than grocery stores. At House-in-the-Woods, there are almost 20 varieties of tomatoes, including ones with pink, orange, yellow and even green-striped skins.

Freedman said the consumer and farmer share the risks and the bounty of farming. She said crops can be affected by bad weather, but the diversity allows another crop to thrive. "Any given year, it might not be a good year for peppers but it is a good year for eggplant," she said. "It's a flexibility on the part of the consumer."

Harmony Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture farm in Knoxville, also welcomes families and young children to help on the farm. Farmer Kara Sheehy Struble said many people don't even think about growing vegetables until the weather is warm ? too late to buy a share or plant their own. She added it is the responsibility of the people who eat the food to understand where it comes from and support their local farmer.

Freedman said, "In order to preserve farm land, you need to help farmers."

How to get involved

To find a Community Supported Agriculture farm near you, visit the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center at
csa/csastate.htm. To contact House-in-the-Woods, visit www.houseinthe; to contact Harmony Farms, e-mail harmonymail@hotmail. com.