As a summer intern for Grow Appalachia, I have had the opportunity to get my hands into several projects and plans, especially those that involve Growing Warriors. One of such projects is the community supported agriculture program run by Jennifer Walden – Acres of Harvest. For those that may not know much about a community supported agriculture program (CSA, for short), a CSA may seem to be, put simply, a box of vegetables that a customer receives each week. But buying into a CSA is so much more than a convenient, pre-packed box of vegetables. A CSA share is a commitment to supporting a local farm throughout the entire growing season – through good months and bad, a share of a CSA is a share of a farm’s harvest. Acres of Harvest is a little bit different than most CSAs that may simply contain produce from one farm. Acres of Harvest supports multiple farmers throughout the Berea area. In addition to a CSA, Acres of Harvest offers the innovative option of being a buying club member, allowing customers to see products that farmers may have available, and choose to purchase these products online to be picked up at Tuesday farmer’s markets. This is just another way of providing consumers with more local products, as well as another way to support Berea farmers. Currently, Acres of Harvest has around 20 CSA members, as well as 5 or so buying club orders each week, and offers pick up in Berea, Richmond, and, if needed, Lexington. Customers range from your average three or four person family to a food bank, to a raw foodist who receives upwards of 15 pounds of produce each week (who I’m told hikes two miles to Richmond, loads up his backpack with fresh veggies, and hikes the two miles back home).
As I mentioned, I have had the opportunity to work with Acres of Harvest throughout the past few weeks. Jennifer arrives at market and begins to set up boxes around 2 pm each Tuesday, stocking each box and checking off buying club orders as farmers arrive with produce. It can be a confusing task – assuring that each order is correct, that each order gets taken to the correct location, or, as was this week’s challenge, assuring that customers return their boxes each week so that there are enough boxes for everyone’s produce each week! Jennifer also authors a newsletter each week, informing customers of what is in their box, as well as introducing them to a farmer within the CSA or a delicious recipe that they may want to try. I have been able to see the entire process of a CSA – from harvest to customer – and it’s quite a rewarding experience. Acres of Harvest is hard work that pays off – getting fresh produce into the hands of the community, and supporting farmers throughout Berea – a very valuable thing in our growing local and agricultural economy.