Local farms making produce more accessible with CSA program - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Local farms making produce more accessible with CSA program

Produce found in this week's small bag Produce found in this week's small bag

Charleston-area farms are offering residents a way to get in on the "buy local" movement by not only supporting the farms, but by becoming a part of them too (minus the dirty work).

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is taking off throughout the Lowcountry. The program, which first got it's start in North America in the 1980s, is simple: Members invest in a participating farm, paying a set dollar amount up front, and in turn receiving a weekly share of whatever produce is in season.

"It all depends on what's growing," says Louise Bennett, who along with Sidi Limehouse runs Rosebank Farms on Johns Island.

Bennett says Rosebank joined the CSA program about four years ago after a number of regulars began inquiring about it. Since then, the farm has been offering three 12-week seasons (Spring, Summer, and Fall) worth of produce in three different sized weekly shares. The price of the CSA membership ranges from $235 to $455 per season, depending on size choice.

At Rosebank Farms, each week's produce is packed at an on-site facility beginning Tuesday, before being delivered to one of 13 different drop sites throughout Charleston Wednesday through Friday.

For Joe Carson, his participation in CSA began with that convenience.

"Before this I was trying to get to the Farmers Market a lot of weeks to pick up vegetables, but I like the CSA a lot better because I know it's there every week, I don't sleep through it, and there is always very nice produce," said Carson, who has been with the program for a year.

Carson said another reason he prefers CSA is because of the randomness of what comes in the bag.

"It makes me be creative," said Carson. "Whatever is in season, you get to figure out what to make with that."

That is a feeling echoed by Kristen Murray, a first timer who is investing in Rosebank this season.

"I'm very big on supporting local, but my main reason for joining CSA is that I usually grab the same veggies every week, and I figured that this would help me branch out and have more of a variety," says Murray. "Plus, it's a fun surprise every week. Something to look forward to."

This week's Rosebank bag included grape and cherry tomatoes, sweet corn, peaches, eggplants, basil, and more. In each bag, Bennett includes a weekly newsletter to keep members up-to-date on farm happenings, harvest details, and recipes for those who may be unfamiliar with the bag's treasures.

Joining a CSA is not without it's risks. As an investor in one of the 25 participating Lowcountry farms, you get to enjoy all the riches of a bountiful harvest, but could also miss out on the fresh goodies if things go south. This thought has crossed Bennett's mind.

"Sometimes I've very stressed because I'm worried about if we are going to have enough Okra for next week. Will the tomatoes be of good quality? You can't control mother nature, so we are at her mercy. But so far we've done okay."

Charleston is no stranger to the "buy local" concept, as more and more restaurants hang their hat on the philosophy as a way to deliver the freshest produce possible. Bennett says with the CSA program, that mindset is expanding to the average consumer, 

 "It makes me proud of what we've done. It's been a boom for us. It's a plus," said Bennett. "I wonder how long it is going to last, but maybe this is way it is going to be?"

For more information on Lowcountry farms participating in Community Supported Agriculture, click here.

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