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With the snow melt and the first few days of warm weather, thoughts naturally turn to the hope of spring and the warm days of summer and perhaps the fresh ripe tomatoes, sweet corn and succulent strawberries that come along with them.
And even if you don’t have a farm or a garden to call your own, you now can have a stake in this year’s harvest.
Two farms in Shelby County, Harmony Fields and Courtney Farms, are proponents and participators in what is know as the Community Supported Agriculture program (or CSA), in which families can purchase shares in a farm in exchange for a portion of its crop.
For instance, for an investment of $350 to $700, depending on what size “share” you purchase, you receive baskets of fresh, locally grown vegetables and produce for at least 20 weeks of the year.
This concept began in the 1960s in Germany, Switzerland and Japan. It didn’t take root in the United States until 1984, when Jan VanderTuin brought the idea over to Massachusetts.
Max Stone of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture says CSA’s didn’t hit Kentucky until 2004.
There are more than 1,300 nationally, but only 20 in Kentucky and now two in Shelby County.
Courtney Farms in Bagdad grows traditionally raised vegetables and produce, and Harmony Fields on Finchville Road is a certified organic farm.
And though they have different avenues of growing vegetables, both are proponents of eating healthy, eating locally and keeping the food dollar in the local economy.
Larry Brandenburg of Harmony Fields says statistics indicate that a dollar spent on locally grown food will circulate in the area economy at least seven times, and that if you purchase your fruit and vegetables at a chain supermarket the circulation of the dollar goes down to 2.5 times.
Besides helping the local economy one gets better, tastier and healthier diet. Eating local, customers want the connection with nature.
Mary Courtney of Courtney Farms says the University of Louisville has done a study that indicates the No. 1 reason people like to be involved with a CSA is surprisingly not for the better vegetables but for the connection with the farm.
Brandenburg agrees, saying, “Our members can come out on the farm. They can pick their own produce, and they can see it growing.
“People are so disconnected from the source of food. Children in school think that the fruit is grown in the back of the grocery store, or it magically appears. They don’t have understanding of the rhythms of nature or how food fits into that.”
With that in mind, both farms will have farm days when CSA member families come out to work the land, play and picnic.
This is Mary and Shane Courtney’s first year with the CSA program, and they have a different approach in delivering the produce to some of their members.
Courtney Farms is working with local employers who encourage their employees to participate in the program and allow Courtney Farms to drop off the baskets of produce at the work place on a weekly basis.
So far Citizens Union Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Trust and the Shelby Campus of Jefferson County Technical College have signed up.
Both farms allow pickup at the farm on designated days, and Harmony Fields delivers to the St. Matthews Farmer’s Market. Courtney Farms plans for a local drop-off station as well.
With one of the options of shares from Courtney Farms, if one wants to only buy a particular vegetable for canning, that can be arranged as well, Mary Courtney says.
The Brandenburgs and the Courtneys are couples who were raised on farms in Kentucky.
Larry Brandenburg grew up in Lexington, and his wife, Beth was raised in Breckinridge County. Shane Courtney is from Dry Ridge, in Grant County, and Mary hails from Springfield.
Being connected to farming from their childhood days, the couples love to share their enthusiasm for locally grown produce to the public.
Mary Courtney says if you haven’t eaten a fresh, homegrown strawberry – you haven’t eaten a strawberry.
Brandenburg says with his organic lettuce, one doesn’t even need salt or dressing. The nutrients in the lettuce make it so rich and good.
Courtney revels in the fact that all the vegetables in her dinner in late February were from her garden.
Brandenburg said he believes with the onslaught of consumer education, the public is much savvier about their food. People know they have an alternative and don’t have to be content with what is on the shelf at the grocery store.
“Organic is the fastest-growing segment in agriculture today,” he said. “The consumer demand is incredible. We can’t begin to meet the demand.
“People like to know if their food has “food miles” meaning if their tomatoes are from Mexico, China, California or Shelby County.”
Courtney Farms: 502-747-0379 or CourtneyFarms@att.net
Harmony Fields: 502-738-0510 or www.HarmonyFieldsFarm.com