Homestead opens summer share program for season

PERU The growing season is in full swing, with farms across the North Country preparing to set up their roadside stands to offer their finest produce. Rehoboth Homestead on Jabez Allen Road is no exception, though locally it stands out as the areas only community supported agriculture program, according to owner Beth Spaugh. A community supported agriculture program, which is commonly referred to as a CSA, is a partnership between consumers and farmers, explained Spaugh. CSAs vary, with the purest CSAs requiring members pay a percentage of operating costs for the year and receive a percentage of produce in return. In these CSAs, members assume risk along with the farmer, she said, generally paying for their share in the early winter so the farmer has funds to purchase seeds, fertilizer and other necessary materials for the growing season. In good years they receive bumper crops, in bad years they share the scarcity, said Spaugh. Farms like the Rehoboth Homestead CSA, she further explained, are at the opposite end of the CSA spectrum. The homestead has what she calls its Farm Fresh Food Club, which has established a share size that will provide salads and 4-5 side dishes weekly that would feed, on average, two adults and a child. I do not ask members to share risk, she said. If the whole region had a disastrous year, it might impact the share size. But, we are taking measures to reduce cropping risk. Those measures include tile drainage installed last fall, said Spaugh, which has helped the homestead to plant on time and control weeds. A cultivating tractor was also purchased to help with weed control, she added. What sets the Rehoboth Homestead CSA apart from other farms is that it provides a partnership and community of the farmers and the consumers, said Spaugh. Those who participate routinely share with one another what they liked about an item from the previous week. If you pick up your produce during the time other members are getting theirs, you do develop community among members, she said. Members share recipes. They may share rides or pick up each others food. The way it works is simple, said Spaugh. Members visit the farm on Friday afternoons, from 3-6:30 p.m., and choose from produce already laid out for them, with a certain number of items available per member. A weekly newsletter from the homestead also keeps members informed about the inner workings of the farm, allowing them to stay connected. Most CSAs like Rehoboth Homestead grow vegetables organically, said Spaugh. While Rehoboth vegetables which include broccoli, snap peas, green beans, lettuce and spinach, among others are not certified organic, the farm has signed the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Yorks Farmers Pledge to follow sustainable and socially responsible practices. This includes growing food in a pesticide-free environment, she said. There seems to be a cultural relationship that farmers who grow organically are more supportive of the CSA concept than those who do not grow organically, said Spaugh. Our vegetables just taste better, and when people get them, they eat more healthy veggies. Rehoboth Homestead also sells its wares at the Lake Placid Farmers Market and the Thursday Plattsburgh Farmers Green Market, which are both producer-only markets, where people can get to know the grower and get accurate information on how the food is grown. The advantage for CSA members to getting their food directly from the farm, however, is they get to see the production and ask questions about what they are seeing, said Spaugh. If they had their heart set on a particular item that we did not harvest for them that week, they may be able to go into the field and get some, she said. While there is an advantage to joining a CSA, said Spaugh, there are deadlines for registration. The deadline for this years CSA at Rehoboth Homestead is Thursday, May 15. The summer CSA will run 17 weeks, June through September, and cost $340, or $20 per week in advance. Registration is limited to 50 participants. Those interested in community supported agriculture farms or in joining the Rehoboth Homestead Farm Fresh Food Club may visit www.rhomestead.com or call 643-7822.

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