I have been mulling this idea over for at least a year. My hesitation has come from cost, lack of openings, and concerns about a pick-up location being close enough to our house. Well, this week Judy Williams from the Hyde Park Farmer's Market sent out an email detailing which of their vendors participate in a CSA, or Community Support Agriculture, program.
Currently, five Hyde Park Farmer's Market vendors run CSAs: Bergefurd Farm, Farm Beach Bethel, Hazelfield Farm, Mohrs' Animal Acres, and Eaton Farm. Sheer curiosity, some research, and a flurry of emails soon led to a decision - we now own a half share in Eaton Farm's CSA for the 2010 spring/summer/fall growing season.
Eaton Farm is located in Madison, IN. While they do not currently have a website of their own, their page on LocalHarvest describes them as follows:
"The Eaton Farm is a diversified family farm dedicated to preserving its farming heritage. The 55 acre farm near Madison, Indiana has been in Jerry Eaton's family for three generations. Today the farm family consists of Jerry and his wife Elizabeth, their son Silas, and Jerry's parents, Jim and Sudie Eaton. While many small farms have faced severe challenges over the past century, the Eatons feel that providing communities with fresh and local food is one way to keep farming viable. 2009 will be their 3rd year participating in farmer's markets, and the 2nd season for their CSA. The Eatons raise a wide selection of produce, with an emphasis on heirlooms and unique varieties. They also produce high quality pastured meat and eggs from animals raised on their farm."
I emailed Jerry and Elizabeth directly and they were quick to answer my questions. I have bought produce from them the past few seasons at the market and have always been very pleased with the quality and kinds of produce they have to offer. Sticking out in my mind at the moment are their heirloom tomatoes...*drool*. Equally important, they have always been very gracious and kind.
One of the big selling points for us was the fact that we can pick up our share each Sunday at the Hyde Park Farmer's Market itself, which is MAYBE 10 minutes from our house. Most other CSAs that I have investigated haven't been able to offer that type of convenience for us.
A half share with the Eaton Farm consists of eight dry quarts of produce, along with a half dozen fresh eggs every week. Their eggs are described as:
"...high quality pastured eggs from happy hens, fed local feed (antibiotic, hormone, and by-product-free), moved weekly, and protected within electric netting. The laying house is mobile, and the hens spend their days foraging and scratching the grass in the sunshine."
Why would I purchase expensive cage-free organic eggs from the grocery store when I have this wonderful, ethical, local alternative?
With just my husband and I, a half-share should be a decent amount of food. While it's true that vegetarians can really plow through some veggies in a week, I think we'll find that we have plenty of fresh produce. The CSA runs from May through October, give or take a couple weeks depending on growing conditions. Last year we found ourselves at a farmer's market pretty much every weekend in some shape or form, so we would not be stretching ourselves with a weekly CSA share, which will be supplemented by any produce that I am able to grow from our home garden.
I'm excited that I may be introduced to some new produce that I've never cooked with before - either from fear or sheer lack of knowledge. I love it that I've been corresponding directly with the people who will be tending and growing our food. The whole concept of a CSA resonates with me, especially when I'm forced to purchase the faceless, nameless produce in the grocery store during the long winter months. It will encourage us to eat more locally, as well as more seasonally.
Hopefully we'll have an opportunity this spring or summer to take a small day trip and visit the farm so we can see the land where our food is grown. I'm excited and proud that this is one of the many ways that we choose to put our money where our mouths are!