A CSA share is like having your own personal farmer
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.