WADHAMS - More and more North Country families are taking advantage of a program that gives them access to fresh produce and supports local farms.
As the demand for local food grows, an increasing number of local farms are offering their goods as a CSA.
"For the farmer, a CSA is a great way to sell their product," said Anita Deming, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Essex County.
CSA, short for Community Supported Agriculture, is a system of farming and food distribution where producers and consumers share the risk of production.
In most CSA models, members agree to buy "shares" at a certain up-front cost in the early spring. In exchange, they receive weekly portions of fresh produce during the growing season. The size of the portions and variety of produce is based on what the farmer is able to grow.
"The buyer gets a good deal," said Deming, noting how the food ends up being less expensive than it would be at a farmer's market.
"Rather than being raised for shipping, it's raised for flavor," Deming added. "You can also make input to the farmer about what you want them to grow."
Adam Hainer owns and operates Juniper Hill Farm in Wadhams, one of several farms in the area that have switched to CSA as their main form of operation.
Hainer said receiving payment in early spring - normally the time he purchases seed - saves him from having to seek annual production loans like many other farmers.
More importantly, Hainer can grow his crops with the advance knowledge that someone wants to consume them.
"It's nice to look at growing things if people really care about the end result," he said.
Hainer grows 30 varieties of organic vegetables and fruits on Juniper Hill's 10 acres, tailoring production to the demands of CSA members.