Thursday, April 10, 2008

Charlottesville CSA's

The April 1-7 C-ville Weekly featured an article about area CSA's. The article provided some excellent background information on the growing number of community supported agriculture organizations. I recommend reading it. I had not before heard of the hard times that befell the Best of What's Around (BOWA) last summer. It turns out "members were offered refunds because of a hitch in production, and a large percentage...left the CSA." Of those with workshares, most of them stayed. Perhaps with more invested in time, those with workshares understood the difficulty of keeping up production. Unlike a few of the other featured farms, BOWA still has some shares available this summer.

The article within the article ("Trouble in paradise: Controversy grows over Horse & Buggy Produce", p. 22) discussed Horse & Buggy, which technically isn't a CSA. The title makes it sounds as if there is a controversy. The bottom line is that CSA people are upset because Horse & Buggy takes customers that would otherwise join a CSA. Brett Wilson, an effusive and energetic overalls-wearing man, runs the outfit. He buys produce in wholesale lots, a majority coming from Mennonite farmers near Dayton, VA. Some food may come from as far away as Pennsylvania. Therefore, the food isn't exactly local, but it's better than food from California or Chile. Second, some of the farmers use pesticides. Not mentioned in the article, but something that struck me as counter to the aims of the local, spray-free movement, was that the lettuce is grown hydroponically. Does hydroponic lettuce from Virginia have less of a carbon footprint than organic lettuce from CA? Maybe. So, Horse & Buggy is not a CSA and it's not perfect, but it's a step in the right direction. Plus they have excellent bread, granola, chickens, apples, cucumbers, and eggs.

The winner in my mind is Appalachia Star farm. It's family run and there are 2-3 acres in production providing 50 shareholders 40 different varieties of vegetables for 22 weeks for $328. Keep an eye out of them at the downtown market.

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