A CSA share is like hav­ing your own per­sonal farmer

The Buffalo News - - WEATHER - How will the CSA work? Q: Why should some­body choose a CSA? – Scott Scan­lon

W in­ter has lin­gered into spring, but Beth and Chris Leipler al­ready have spent sev­eral months pre­par­ing for their sec­ond grow­ing sea­son at Tioga Val­ley Farm in West Falls. The farm is among at least 10 in the re­gion that of­fer Com­mu­nity Sup­ported Agri­cul­ture (CSA) shares – es­sen­tially giv­ing cus­tomers a stuffed shop­ping-size bag of its weekly bounty through the grow­ing sea­son.

Those who want to get in on the ac­tion should do so soon. Tioga Val­ley, a 6-acre patch on Davis Road – about a 15-minute drive from East Aurora and parts of Ham­burg and Or­chard Park – is of­fer­ing 100 shares this sea­son, com­pared to 60 last year. Half are gone, gob­bled up mostly by re­peat cus­tomers.

Each farm puts its own stamp on the CSA ex­pe­ri­ence. Tioga Farms share­hold­ers can visit the farm once a week. They will take home mostly sea­sonal veg­eta­bles, and some fruits – as many as 140 dif­fer­ent crop va­ri­eties – from early June to late Oc­to­ber. Small shares run $425 (about $20 a week); large shares, $625. Ap­ply on­line at tio­gaval­ley­farm.com. For more info on farm shares in the re­gion, visit lo­cal­har­vest.org/buf­falo-ny/csa.

The farm will forgo farm mar­ket vend­ing this year be­cause of its CSA ex­pan­sion. “It’s our fa­vorite way to mar­ket veg­eta­bles,” Beth Leipler said. Ques­tion: An­swer: When cus­tomers come to the farm, they’ll come to a share room and get a large choice in the veg­eta­bles they take home, all ex­cept for about the first two weeks when we have more lim­ited veg­eta­bles. We have a mix-and-match sec­tion. A whole bunch of veg­eta­bles are laid out and cus­tomers get to fill their bag half­way if they’re a half share and full if they’re a large share. In ad­di­tion to that, they have a few des­ig­nated items they get to take home.

After that, most of our cus­tomers take ad­van­tage of our free U-pick sec­tion. They’ll pick from a va­ri­ety of veg­eta­bles such as beans, peas, cherry toma­toes, herbs and a cut flower sec­tion. We feel that in­creased re­la­tion­ship re­ally helps with mem­ber re­ten­tion.

A: The ben­e­fits from a cus­tomer’s per­spec­tive is they get to re­ceive a weekly sup­ply of in­cred­i­bly fresh and nu­tri­tious veg­eta­bles that in our case are grown with­out any syn­thetic chem­i­cals. We grow or­gan­i­cally but we’re not cer­ti­fied. It helps them to eat health­ier, cook more. In a lot of cases, cus­tomers save money. For a lot of mem­bers, the farm they sign up for with a CSA share of­ten be­comes their farm. Who­ever is grow­ing their veg­eta­bles be­comes their farmer. That’s a fun as­pect of it. They get to spend time on the farm ev­ery week. What we re­ally en­joy is fam­i­lies com­ing to the farm. Kids get to spend more time outdoors, get to cre­ate a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship with healthy food by go­ing out in the field and snack­ing on sugar snap peas and cherry toma­toes and things like that.

Beth Leipler is mark­ing Tioga Val­ley Farm’s sec­ond sea­son.

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