CSA winter shares deliver summertime vegetables

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Community supported agriculture (CSA) is one of those double-benefit arrangements. You buy a share in a farm's harvest, and all summer long you get prime produce. The farmer gets an assured income. But then winter rolls around and neither of you get anything. 

Now, farmers such as Gary Brever offer a winter share. Brever runs Ploughshare Farm in Central Minnesota. 

 

 

Lynne Rossetto Kasper: I have to tell you: I think winter share and I see the root vegetable section of the market. 

Gary Brever: Right, and you can't just live on rutabagas and carrots alone. So, we've come up with a program to blanch and freeze things from our summer harvest -- everything from sweet corn to sweet peppers to tomatoes to many of the greens. When you lightly blanch and freeze vegetables right away, a lot of the nutrients, taste and texture are retained. 

LRK: How does this help you? I'm thinking of the profit margin on something like this. You need equipment for this and you need manpower. 

GB: The profit margins are slim because it is a labor-intensive, handicraft operation. We do keep it at a limit. Right now it's about 10 percent of our 300-member CSA. We're competing with an industrial model where they have big machines to cut up everything. 

We have a small crew, but for us, one of the goals with our winter share is to really connect with our customers throughout the wintertime. Because at the end of the season, we deliver our last box, and then we don't see most of our members again until June. The customer has a big window to go someplace else to receive their vegetables. Our hope is that we can, at least for a while, entertain this model of giving them produce during the winter with these frozen shares. Our goal is that it will expand and it will grow. 

There's the idea of supporting local farms and there's the movement of locavores, but we need to assist those people in the middle of winter. If we can provide some of the fruits of the summertime in the wintertime, I think that's a good thing.

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