BY KELSEY O’CONNOR
With rows of baskets brimming with fresh produce from dozens of local farmers, the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market makes it easy for residents to stock up on seasonal produce. But many farmers and food producers are offering an even easier way to obtain local food.
It’s called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Customers, known as shareholders, pay farmers upfront for a subscription to their crops or products. In return, the shareholders receive a box of fresh food each week. According to the Local Growers’ Guild, there are 15 farms with CSAs that now sell in town. One of the first farms to offer this arrangement locally was Musgrave Orchard, owned by Amy and Andy Hamilton.
The Hamiltons started their program, Core Farms CSA, soon after buying the orchard north of town in 2002. From May to December, Core Farms offers shares of organically grown fruits and vegetables and even homemade apple cider. A full share for two people costs $600 in the summer and $375 in the winter. The produce can be picked up weekly at Musgrave Orchard or delivered to the subscriber’s home.
Says Amy, “You know your money stays in the community, and you get safe, organic food. It makes you feel good.”
Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery offers subscriptions for their homemade breads, crafted using organic and locally grown ingredients. Katie Zukof and Eric Schedler started making bread as a hobby four years ago, turned it into a business, and soon afterward added subscriptions.
“We really feel like part of a community,” Zukof says, “both with customers and other farmers.”
Customers benefit from the arrangement, receiving their loaves for less than full retail price. Subscribers pick how many loaves they want each week for a three-month period, starting at $65. They can pick up their share at any one of eight drop-off points in town, including Bloomingfoods East.
Mandy Napier, owner of Schacht Farm just south of Bloomington, says the most rewarding part of her CSA program is the chance to interact with families for whom she raises food. Her subscribers pay $300 for a three-month period and receive 15 pounds of chicken, pork, and beef each month. An optional egg share is also offered. All animals at Schacht Farm are free-range and raised without chemicals.
Napier says the CSA has been good for business because she can plan ahead and know “the food we’re raising has a home.” The Schacht Farm program has been growing steadily since its creation in 2009 and now has 50 subscribers. “The CSA is something that we want to grow,” Napier says. “It’s a very reciprocal relationship; people are invested in the farm and we are, in turn, invested in them.”