By JANINE QUEENAN
WESTFIELD – Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a popular trend across the country. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 12,617 U.S farms sell products using this shared-risk model.
CSAs allow consumers to deal directly with farmers. Fresh produce is sold throughout the growing season using a share distribution system. CSA “members” invest in the farm by paying for the product upfront, before the season begins. The farmer allocates the goods to the members on a regular basis, and members receive a share of fresh, plentiful, locally grown food.
Environmental concerns around modern agriculture drove the creation of the CSA system. By supporting farmers, consumers help protect natural resources and support the local economy.
CSAs are abundant in this region of the state and many have expanded beyond selling produce. Today, CSAs sell vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, herbs, and non-food items, such as yarn.
Western Massachusetts has a long history with the CSA movement. One of the first CSAs started in Great Barrington during the 1980s. Nowadays, hundreds of regional farmers take part in direct to the consumer farming.
Two of those CSAs operate in Westfield: Kosinski Farms on Russellville Road and Yellow Stonehouse Farm on Root Road.
In business for more than 80 years, the Kosinski family runs two farms, a retail stand, bakery, and greenhouse in Westfield. Owner/operator Gene Kosinski started the CSA five years ago to offer more produce to the consumer. He’s happy with the results.
“The CSA has grown each year, mostly by word of mouth,” he said.
Kosinski also sits on the board of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture), the creators of the popular, and long-running, “Be a Local Hero, Buy Locally Grown,” marketing campaign.
CISA promotes local agriculture and according to Kosinski, “shows the difference between things shipped up from New Jersey and produce grown by farmers in Massachusetts.”
This is important because, “there is still agriculture in Westfield with farms doing a good job producing locally grown,” said Kosinski. “CISA promotes sustainable agriculture and the need to support Massachusetts agriculture, or it will be a thing of the past.”
Across town, John Adams-Keilch and his wife Constance run Westfield’s only certified organic farm at Yellow Stonehouse Farm.
Adams-Keilch began farming after retirement, when an uncle left him and his wife the farm. A CSA right from the start, Yellow Stonehouse Farm accommodates up to 250 members during four weekly pick up days.
The farm is busy, but Adams-Keilch likes it.
“We enjoy the social aspect (of the CSA) and have met hundreds of people from all over because of the farm,” he said.
While the upfront cost is daunting for some, Adams-Keilch believes it’s affordable for everyone.
“We try to keep things affordable,” he said. “We figure out what we spend and see what everyone else is charging and then charge $25 less.”
Produce not used for the CSA sells at a small farmers market held on the property each weekend or is donated to the Huntington Food Bank. The farm does some marketing, but like Kosinski, most members come by word of mouth.
One of those members is Megan Stanton of Westfield who joined the CSA on the recommendation of a friend.
“Joining the CSA has been a great experience,” said Stanton. “The expense is well worth it.”
“The share is abundant and of good quality, and I care about organic,” she said. “The alternative would be to drive up to a place like Whole Foods, which would probably be more expensive and of lesser quality.”
Many members come back year after year.
“Members like to touch the food, see how it grows. (To see) what it looks like in real life,” said Adams-Keilch. “We try new things every year; we’re experimenters. Our goal is to have something different every week (for members). Each year we plant twenty different items in addition to the regular things.”
“My kids enjoy trying new things and the CSA share is a great way to expose the family to new things,” said Stanton. “It’s a great opportunity to try creative new recipes. I’m a pretty adventurous eater, and I’ve tried new things I’ve never tried in my life. That’s a great part of the experience.”
Members share the reward of fresh produce, but also the risk of crop failure or another catastrophe that could result in a loss of investment. Both Kosinski and Adams-Keilch said it’s never happened.
“(We’ve) never had crop failure, so never had to short change members,” said Kosinski.
Adams-Keilch makes sure he plants crops to address unforeseen problems.
“There is no risk for members,” he said. “It’s hard to fail if you cover the bases by planting a wide variety and more than you need.”
As Americans become more concerned about the origins of their food for health and environmental reasons, the CSA system will continue grow. CSAs are good for farmers, who receive a steady income stream throughout the year and for members, who receive fresh, ripe, local food and the opportunity to meet the people who grow it.
Kosinski Farm offers a full farm share for $650 for the season, a half share for $375, and an add-on bake shop share for $200.
Yellow Stonehouse Farm offers a full summer share for $625 and half shares for $435. Adams-Keilch allows members to split shares.
Yellow Stonehouse Farm is holding an Open House at the farm on May 16th and 17th for anyone considering a CSA farm share this summer. For more information visit www.yellowstonehousefarmcsa.com
Kosinski Farm has expanded its business and opened a winery next to the farm on Russellville Road. The winery features fruit wine made from products from the farm. For more information visit www.ravenhollowwinery.com
By JANINE QUEENAN