Volume 76, Number 28 | December 6 - 12, 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Christina Schiavoni, from Washington Heights, a member of the Chelsea C.S.A. for five years, selected gold turnips on the C.S.A.’s last distribution date of the season two weeks ago. She works in the neighborhood.

Community-supported agriculture is producing results

By Lawrence Lerner

From the looks of the Hudson Guild on Tuesday afternoons, community-supported agriculture, or C.S.A., is alive and well in Chelsea. On Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. from mid-June to Thanksgiving, more than 80 mixed-income households descend upon the Hudson Guild to pick up their weekly share of organic produce, which is delivered by the Chelsea C.S.A. program’s agricultural partner, the Kavakos family of Stoneledge Farm, in South Cairo, N.Y.

Last week marked the last food distribution of the 2006 season. Members went home with Winterbor kale, gold turnips, sage, carrots, butternut winter squash, beets, red cabbage, three ears of popcorn, garlic and potatoes, along with cameo apples and Bosc pears.

“The cameos are incredible eating apples,” said Dory Nash, lead coordinator for the Chelsea C.S.A.

The C.S.A. transaction is a simple one: Farmers such as Deb and Pete Kavakos, who have worked with Chelsea C.S.A. since its inception in 2000, sell shares in their upcoming harvest to members; the proceeds go toward the cost of growing and distributing a season’s worth of produce and paying the farmers a living wage. Typically, each week’s share consists of seven to 10 types of vegetables, enough for a family of two to three people. During the course of a season, members get at least 40 different types of vegetables, and households may also purchase optional fruit shares.

If there is a downside, it’s that everyone shoulders the risk of bad harvests.

But according to Nash, “Even an off-season is a good season. If one crop is lacking, we get an abundance of something else, and you get creative. One year, we had so many beets, one member exclaimed, ‘The beets, the beets, the beets!’ But there’s a simple solution: If you get a lot of beets, you make borscht.”

Standard vegetable shares cost $450, which averages out to $18.75 per week. Discounted shares are $325 for households with an income below $28,000 per year, bringing the average cost to $13.55 a week. Chelsea C.S.A. members also commit to volunteering at least six hours during the season, usually by working two three-hour distribution shifts at the Hudson Guild.

“We are a diverse group of folks who are very committed to this, and we welcome new households annually,” said Nash. “It’s good for your health, the environment, and it supports local farmers. What could be better?”

Chelsea C.S.A. will hold an informational meeting for prospective members on Jan. 6. Early discount sign-up is extended through Jan. 13. For more information, call 212-924-671 (voicemail box 245), or e-mail chelseacsa@yahoo.com or visit www.chelseacsa.org. Other Downtown C.S.A. programs are located at the McBurney YMCA at 125 W. 14th St.; at Washington Square at 35 W. Fourth St.; at the Sixth St. Community Center at E. Sixth St. and Avenue B; and at the Stanton St. Settlement at 53 Stanton St. For more information, visit Justfood.com.

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