Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a movement that is rapidly spreading across the country. It started in Japan where consumers would contract with farmers to grow food in a certain way. From there the idea spread to Massachusetts where, in its American incarnation, people by “shares” of the upcoming product of a local farm. “We’re turning the tables” on the commercial based food supply explains Deb Ritchie, as we sit at the dining table in their rambling farmhouse in East Otto. Instead of a large commercial venture that ships food across the country, the food produced at a CSA farm is intended only to be sold locally. Some commercial food has traveled thousands of miles, and can take up to two weeks to reach your table. Instead, Deb and her husband Stewart (Stew) emphasize that it’s important to maintain a local food source, “We’re not selling out of state. We’re very transparent on what we sell to our customers, they can call us up and ask us.”
Each Spring they open up the purchase of “shares” of the coming years produce. The shares vary in size from the Individual Share, through the Small Share (good for a small family) and up to the Full Share for larger families. The Summer shares typically include just about everything you would find at the farmers market. “We have everything from A to Z” Deb says, and then, just to prove it, names a few off: “arugula, broccoli, eggplant, spinach, salad greens, cooking greens, and zucchini.” Best of all, when you pick up your share it’s really fresh; within a day or two of being picked. In Winter they sell shares of typical winter produce: carrots, potatoes, leeks, and winter squash. They distribute the shares at various farmers markets in Buffalo, Orchard Park, and Amherst. For those who love a drive in the country you can also pick up your shares right at the farm every Wednesday.
But, more important to Deb and Stew than the variety of foods, is the quality of the food they can provide their share holders. Not only is the food farm fresh, having only traveled a dozen miles or so the reach the table, but they are certified naturally grown. Their food is grown to organic standards, but since they don’t transport the food across state lines, they do not need the certified organic label. Vegetables aren’t their only offerings, they also furnish the product of some other local producers namely: apples, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, pears and other fruits. They raise their own cattle for their grass fed beef, and sell it by the quarter or half cow. Their pigs are pasture raised and fed only hormone-free, antibiotic-free locally milled feed. They are also available in whole or half sections. Residents of this part of Western New York are fortunate to have a local CSA farm that provides high quality organic food. Some shares for this years harvest are still available. You can find them online at nativeofferings.com or call them at 716-257-3006.