Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Farm Share and a Food Shed

For us New Englanders, along with many residents of other cold climates, the winter months can present some serious challenges when it comes to eating local. More winter farm shares and farmers markets have begun cropping up in recent years, which is wonderful, but many are new and tentative ventures without much volume. And, while we all have the option of preserving the harvest at home or creating our own root cellar, most of us urban dwellers have neither the space nor the time to set aside a winter's worth of food, much as we might like to.

This year, as the end of our incredible farm share with Red Fire Farm drew closer, my husband and I found ourselves chanting the same refrain over our veggie-filled dinners: how will we survive long months without this bounty of fresh, local, organic produce? After just one season of the CSA, the thought of limp, supermarket zucchini shipped in from Mexico was too depressing to contemplate. But, we also didn't want to spend the next five months without putting a single green item on our plate.

Serendipitously, I got to talking with a friend about her farm share with Enterprise Farm in Whately, Massachusetts, which goes year round and allows a buy in for just the winter/spring share. Unlike most CSAs, which come from one nearby farm, Enterprise is part of a co-op of organic, sustainable farms that operate under the umbrella of an East Coast "Food Shed." So, while it's not as local as an all-Massachusetts share, participation still supports small farmers and preserves farmland, within a distribution system that is much more sustainable than most of the options available at the supermarket. The shares are as local as possible (last week's box was about 50% Massachusetts grown), and there is a sense of reason and moderation in what's included. Four organic, Florida-grown Clementines feels like a wonderful winter treat, and one that leaves a much smaller carbon footprint than an entire crate shipped across the Atlantic from Spain.

I will admit that I still feel some uneasiness at this approach. There's something disconcerting about opening up your December farm share box to find a pint of perfectly ripe grape tomatoes. But, I also believe that the idea of a larger food shed is important for a host of reasons, including food security, conservation, and, quite simply, quality of life. Winter in New England is hard enough without having to make the choice between no fresh veggies or produce whose provenance is as unfamiliar as it is distant. Instead, thanks to Enterprise, we can support family farms up and down the East Coast, all while preserving safe, sustainable, nourishing agricultural practices along the way.

You can too, if you're interested--the farm still has shares available, and they will prorate the price for any shares you've missed. Click here for more information. Click here to watch Dave Jackson talk about the philosophy and practice of operating a year-round CSA in New England.


  1. Yay! Great tip. Since your post on 12/13 how are things going with the winter share?

    - Stacey

  2. Things are going very well! The shares are not as overflowing as our summer/fall season shares from Red Fire, but that's to be expected. There's always a nice variety, and the produce is good quality. I would definitely recommend it if you can still get a prorated share!