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Community Supported Agriculture program lets participants share in local farm harvest

Harbin Hill Farms cmyk
Harbin Hill Farms owner Richard Calkins is an active Johnson County Farmer’s Market member as well as a participant in the Community Supported Agriculture program.

By Paula Walter

The Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Council will be holding a community supported agriculture fair in Johnson City on Saturday, February 25th from 1:00-4:00 pm at the Willow Tree Coffee House. This event gives an opportunity for people who are looking for healthier foods for themselves and their families a chance to meet local farmers who offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares. The fair is open to the public.
A CSA share is basically a subscription to a local farmer for a share of the harvest.  CSA members pay the grower up front at the beginning of the year.  This allows them to receive a weekly box of fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season and grown at the farm they support.  Paying in advance for the produce allows the farmer to purchase whatever they may need to plant, grow and maintain their crops.  The program is offered for a designated amount of weeks, and can vary from 20 weeks and up. The customer pays up front and the cost is typically between $15 and $30 per week, but can be more depending on the range of products offered.  Some farms, for example, include eggs, meat products, honey and other non-produce items as part of their offering.  The amount of weeks, and the size and price of the box, is up to the discretion of the grower.  Some growers offer a half share – either half a box each week, or a full box every other week.
Harbin Hill Farms in Mountain City, owned by Richard Calkins, is a fully functioning farm and is the first known CSA shares location in Johnson County. Calkins could be found at the Johnson County Farmer’s Market this past year, a friendly soul who was always willing to share information with those shopping at the local market.  “I always wanted to farm when I retired,” he said.  This past year was his second year farming and this year will be Calkins’ first to offer the CSA program in the county.  According to the Appalachian Resource Conservation and Development Council, Calkins has played an integral part in the area’s first beginning farmer training program.  A graduate of last year’s first program, Calkins now has a fully functioning farm that is used as a business model for others.
According to Calkins, one of the advantages to participating in a CSA program is the consumer knows where their food is coming from, from farm to pickup.  “The general principle is to know your farmer,” Calkins added.  His produce is grown using organic methods.  Support of local farms not only helps farmers with their business, it allows buyers to receive fresh fruits and vegetables. “You lose nutrition in produce that is shipped long distances, or sits in warehouses,” he added.
The CSA program starts in mid to late May and runs until mid to late October.  If the grower has fall crops, they can offer an extended program.  Typically sign up for the program begins in February.  Farmers may have a limit on the number of participants they can accept and once they have reached that number, it would be difficult to take part in the CSA shares.  At this time, Calkins is planning on accepting up to 10 subscribers for 20 weeks, at a cost of $20 per week, and he can be reached at [email protected]
For more information on CSA shares, contact the Johnson County Farmers Market at 423-213-3450 or go to www.johnsoncountyfm.org.