Community Supported Agriculture Part 1 

Wayne Harvey

C-S-A stands for Community Supported Agriculture and it seems to be a growing thing here in Maine.There are more than 120 C-S-As in our state with more than 55-hundred shareholders.The arrangement helps support local farmers while putting fresh and often less expensive food on local dinner tables.Maine has always had ties to farming and many in our state have their own gardens.Some don’t have the time or space to keep up with it, but would still like fresh food from the garden all summer.That need is being filled by C-S-A’s.”People are really interested in local produce right now just because of all the problems that are you know, the food system right now is so corrupt and it’s such a problem people can’t trust what they’re getting from who knows where and the CSA is such a great model because people can put a face with who’s growing their food”Ryan Parker of Parker Produce in East Newport has seen his membership grow each year he’s been in business. He started by providing seasonal food to local restaurants, but he found the demand was from his friends and neighbors.Once word gets out, more people are interested.”It’s hard to make a connection between the people who want local, sustainably grown produce and the farmers who want to grow it, just because of the way the food system is set up, most people have never heard of CSA, they don’t know what that is, and once you tell people what it is most people are pretty receptive, you know, think it’s a great idea.” says 29-year-old Ryan Parker who has been farming for just four years. Mark McBrine of the Vine and Branch Farm in Bangor has always been around it.”Both my grandfathers were farmers in Maine, my parents both grew up on those farms, ended up going on to different careers but always stayed involved in farming.”The farm he runs with his wife Linda and their seven children is a little different.”We’re a diversified farm that has vegetables and meat products and it just seemed like people were interested. There weren’t very many people doing shares for meat when we started doing the meat six years ago and they really like having meats that are along with the vegetables that they can get from a local farmer.”To be a member of a CSA, you buy a share or half share from the farmer. Each week during the growing season, you get produce or meat from the farmer’s gardens. The price varies from farm to farm, but a share starts around three hundred dollars. Most payments are due before the growing season starts.”The farmer gets all the money up front, when I have to be buying seeds and tools and things like that in January. That’s when my money is coming in then the rest of the summer. I just have to work on making it happen,” said Parker. “For our full share members last year, if you had gone into the grocery store and bought as close as you could get for the same thing that I provide you, would have spent two hundred dollars more, so you save a lot of money.”McBrine agreed, “It’s a better value than going and just purchasing items say at a farmers market or individual products that you might get at a stand. But it is an initial down payment that you have to make. It’s probably a lot harder for people right now with the way the economy is but we’ve worked out payment plans for people that have needs to have that kind of a situation.”