Thanks to food labeling laws in the USA we know where our out-of-season delights such as tomatos and cantelopes come from. Well, maybe “delights” isn’t the way to describe pink tomatoes that are hard as apples or green cantelopes that have no taste. It’s so much better when your food comes from next door! We are just marking time until our growing season starts here in the Northeast so we can get produce from our local farmers’ markets. Last weekend my husband, Dana, and I joined a group of growers,producers and other interested parties at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio, for the second annual “Opening Doors to Success” Small Farm Conference and Trade Show. Sponsored by the Ohio State University Extension Service, the conference featured 40 breakout sessions and a trade show for small farmers.
We are not small farmers, though I am part owner of family land in Southern Ohio. The reason we decided to attend this conference was to learn about Community Supported Agriculture, more commonly known as CSA. Dana is involved with a sustainable business group at Lakeland Community College in Mentor, Ohio, and one of the efforts they are trying to get underway is a Lake County CSA.
Friday night started with a presention on organic agriculture. The requirements for producers and how to get certified. I tip my hat to those willing to go through the process. To someone on the outside it looked daunting. I admire the commitment and passion it takes to sustain the organic growing process, especially when it comes to animals and animal products.
The first session we attended on Saturday was on CSA’s. The presenter talked about what CSA’s are, how they are run and what the advantages are for the farmer and the consumer. They have a single farm CSA on their land outside of Wilmington that is very successful. He talked about how they weren’t sure in the beginning that people would even subscribe but that it has grown beyond what they even could imagine. Those attending who were thinking of starting their own CSA’s or joining with others in a group were encouraged by his talk. Dana will be doing the marketing for the Lake County group so he got some ideas about how to present it to potential consumers. It’s an education for consumers who are used to having the same things available in the same way every week in the local grocery. With a CSA you roll with the season and the weather, participating in the same successes and failures of the farmer. As a consumer, your reward is fresher, healthier produce. As a farmer, your reward is a guaranteed market. A handsome trade-off for both!
I personally can’t wait for this to get off the ground. As a foodie, trolling food blogs all over the web, I read many who are using their weekly boxes as the topic of their blogs. Hopefully in a few weeks you will see me writing some of the same.
What else did I learn at the conference?
- No, it’s not legal to shoot trepassers on your property.
- If you are just starting out, consult an accountant
- Hire a grant writer if you expect to successfully secure a government grant
- That in one day of pouring rain (!) a pond will form in front of Kettering Hall at Wilmington College so deep ducks can swim in it!
The conference was definitely worthwhile. If you live in Ohio and are interested in starting a small operation or want to connect with others doing the same be sure to look for next year’s offering by the Ohio State Extension Service. Your local extension service can help you too. Log on to OSU Extension to find your local office.