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Side Dish: New CSAs on the scene


Published February 20, 2008 at 6:22 a.m.

Imagine getting a big basket of farm-fresh vegetables, a dozen eggs and some local, organic meat delivered - to your desk; no farm visit required. The pilot project starts in June, when Burlington's Intervale Center launches a new, multi-farm CSA, serving four area businesses.

The community-supported agriculture arrangement is being organized by the Intervale's Agricultural Development Specialist Sona Desai, who managed to get a grant to create what she calls "a brokering service" for local products. Unlike the average CSA, which is run by the growers themselves, "We are outsourcing all of our product," Desai explains. "The idea was really to help smaller farms, who don't have markets established yet, pool their resources together."

Desai insists the Intervale isn't looking to poach any shares from the farms already doing CSAs. "I'm hoping the market segmentation that we've done will attract new folks rather than going after existing CSA members," she says. The "new folks" are likely to come from large, local companies: "We're looking to go to places with over 100 employees who might be shopping at Hannaford," Desai explains." So far, she's worked out agreements with VEIC and Fletcher Allen Health Care. She hopes to add two more businesses for the 2008 season, and expand further in 2009.

Participants will be able to choose from 10 different "food baskets" - including the 'farm fresh' equivalent of a grocery store salad bar. "There's a 'salad bowl share' for which no cooking is required. It's for people who are interested in healthy food but don't really cook that much," explains Desai. Both the "salad bowl" and the standard vegetable share can be enhanced with a bunch of other offerings, including eggs, meats and a selection of Vermont fruits and berries, such as gooseberries and currants.

The Intervale's CSA isn't the only new one popping up this season. Cara Barous and Joneve Murphy - who previously managed the market garden at Shelburne Farms - are teaming up to offer 45 shares to residents of Shelburne and the surrounding towns. They're calling the biz Blue's Garden. "We'll be doing three acres of mixed vegetables," Murphy reports. Expect to see heirloom varieties of the usual offerings, such as basil, eggplant, swiss chard and cukes. You can add a flower share or pick your own, too. The pair is exploring the idea of a "baked goods" share that might include bread or "a dozen cookies, or some banana bread," says Murphy.

Besides running the CSA, selling their veggies wholesale to restaurants and grocery stores, and helping feed kids at the Shelburne Community School, the busy farmers plan to make some extra cash by working with folks who prefer the DIY approach to feeding themselves. "We'll help people install and maintain their home gardens," Murphy explains. "Because, ultimately, I feel like people should grow their own food whenever possible."