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Anchor Run CSA farm first in USA

Anchor Run CSA Farm in Wrightstown Township is the first municipality-funded project of its kind.

This time next year, dozens of Wrightstown area residents will be enjoying fresh locally grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from the Anchor Run Community Supported Agriculture Farm.

On July 7, Wrightstown became the first municipality in the United States to fund a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.

From their beginnings in Japan during the mid 1960's, CSA's are a relatively modern concept in American agriculture, based upon the age-old fundamentals of farming.

The mission of CSA farms is to involve the community in a partnership with the farmer to produce and sustain local agriculture. Approximately sixty community members -- called shareholders -- will invest four hundred dollars, as well as some sweat equity, estimated at 8 hours per week, in the Anchor Run CSA's first season. Farmers Jon Thorne and Tali Adini collect the money up-front to pay for operational costs, labor, and general maintenance.

In return for their investment, shareholders will receive a bag of fresh, locally grown produce each week during the anticipated twenty-six week growing season.

A typical 'share' yields enough vegetables to feed a small family, and incorporates between 6 and 12 varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowers, and berries.

The Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources reports many factors control the size of a share, including the number of shareholders, cost of operation, number of crops, soil quality, and weather.

The linkeage between the up-front investment and the consumer is both positive and potentially risky. While shareholders will be able to reap the rewards of their hard work and commitment to locally grown food, there is also the risk of a poor yield due to uncontrollable circumstances.

Involving many members of the community for a reasonable cost does, however, do much to ease the financial risk by the small farmer.

According to an Iowa State University report on United States Department of Agriculture findings, in 2001 the average size of the American farm increased to an all time high 436 acres. Yet, out of the 2.16 million farms in America, 1,166,590 were classified as small (those earning less than $250,000 annually).

While $250,000 seems like a large income, after production costs -- as high as 80% -- and other expenses, the average small farmer is left with an income of around $23,000.

The same report goes on to find that 40% of America's crops are produced by farms comprising 3% of the farmland, and for the first time in it's history farmers comprise less than 2% of the population.

Furthermore, the Rodale Institute of Kutztown, PA reports that small farms in America are disappearing at the alarming rate of 25,000 per year.

The 1,000 plus CSA farms in the U.S. and Canada operate in reaction to modern Agribusiness. Many CSA's are organic, meaning the use of harmful pesticides in farming is eliminated. The community's financial support ensures the economic stability of the practice of organic farming.

The Anchor Run Farm in Wrightstown, located adjacent to Route 232, will come to life seven years after the 100 acre plot was purchased by taxpayers and marked for open space in 1996. Since that time the Wrightstown Supervisors' convened study committees, held public forums, and entertained input from local and state representatives.

CSA Committee Chairwoman Robyn Hoy has been involved with the project since its inception. Hoy believes the farm is a unique and excellent way to utilize open space agriculturally.

The initial size of the Anchor Run farm will be eight acres. The lease, signed on July 7, allows for expansion of the farm by four acres in 2005 and again in 2007.

The lease is unique in that monetary rent will be phased in over the first year. Initially rent will be paid through the in-kind services of property maintenance and preparation, in addition to some miscellaneous tasks.

Couple Jon Thorne And Tali Adini concluded the search for a farmer that the CSA Committee began last fall. Thorne and Adini most recently operated the Narrow Bridge Farm CSA near Ithaca, New York, where they supplied over 120 shareholders. They attended the July 7 Wrightstown Board of Supervisors Meeting and introduced themselves to the Community.
" We're very impressed with the efforts of the township to preserve the agricultural way of life," observed Adini.

Thorne established the foundation of the CSA to be the direct relationship between the consumer and the grower. Iterating that instead of driving to the market of a wholesaler, people will be able to come directly to the source.

Thorne likened the shareholder as more of a member than anything else. The object is to operate the farm with minimum waste, to eliminate the middle man, and educate the community. After introducing their ideals, Adini and Thorne fielded several questions regarding the day-to-day operations of the farm from the Township Supervisors.

When Wrightstown Chairmen Chester Pugnowski inquired about a vision for the first season, Tali Adini replied that there could be a variety of as many as sixty different crops. The most significant factor in producing such a large variety is the change in the seasons and the farming practices.

CSA farms practice intercropping, or the use of one parcel of land to grow many different types of produce. Since different crops absorb and deposit different nutrients, soil stays rich and healthy for a longer period of time. Studies have shown that intercropping actually produces a higher yield than traditional monocropping.

Adini and Thorne bring extensive experience to the Anchor Run Farm, having worked for or been in contact with dozens of farms. When questioned about the length of the growing season, Adini anticipated a 26-week season stretching from late May to around Thanksgiving.
In addition to providing shareholders with produce, Thorne and Adini envision selling produce to area restaurants. The couple also sees the potential for reaching 200-250 shareholders by the 2007 growing season.

Additional expectations include a weekly newsletter that will provide recipes, personal insight and announce community gatherings. Adini believes CSA farms are able to encourage a great sense of community by becoming a central meeting point for shareholders, fostering farming knowledge, and holding special events.


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Last updated on: Monday, April 10, 2006 11:12 AM