National CSA Sign-Up Day is February 26

Maplestone Farm CSA and Pastured Meats is pleased to join farms from around the United States in celebrating National CSA Sign-Up Day on February 26, 2016. The day encourages consumers to buy a share of their local farm’s harvest for the 2016 season, a buying model known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA.

CSA has become an important and effective way to grow and sustain local food systems since it was introduced to the United States in the 1980s. Now, over 6,000 farms in the country offer fresh, nourishing food to consumers in this manner.

Originally focused on produce, CSA members would buy a share of the harvest in the early spring and then receive a box of local produce each week throughout the growing season. In the past decade, the CSA model has evolved with innovative farmers adding fruits, meats, eggs, dairy, and grains to their offerings-often with extended seasons, and some going year-round.

Spring 2016 will be the third season that Jarret and Jessica Winum, together with their six children, will plant and harvest fresh vegetables for more than 40 families in northern Ontario County. This year, they are excited to announce a continued working relationship with Hobart and William Smith Colleges, inclusion in member shares of locally-baked bread from Canandaigua-based Rise and Shine Bread, and the addition of pastured pork to their list of pastured meat products. They offer weekly pick-up sites in Geneva, Waterloo, and Candandaigua, as well as on the farm in Stanley.

“We are incredibly excited about the 2016 growing season. Being able to share my passion for healthy, locally-grown food is what I live for, and the opportunity to get to know my customers on a weekly-basis makes it truly feel like I am growing food for friends and family, not just customers,” says Jarret Winum.

Though they have lived in the Finger Lakes since moving here from the Hudson Valley in 2007, the Winum family only started farming professionally in 2014, after a battle with soft-tissue sarcoma in his right thigh left Jarret unable to continue working his summer business as a handyman. Winum is a history teacher during the school year, but his childhood on a hobby farm resulted in a passion for gardening and fresh vegetables that led him to expand his own family garden each passing year.

Winum reports, “When radiation and surgery to remove the tumor on my leg left me unable to climb ladders with strength and skill, it was a natural leap to agriculture as a second income. I truly believe that my parent’s efforts to feed me fresh and natural foods during my childhood gave me an immune system that was able to fight off a rare and aggressive cancer that required an equally aggressive treatment plan consisting of radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy. I wanted to be able to give my friends and neighbors the opportunity to fill their plates with colorful, nourishing meats and vegetables that would give them a better quality of life and offer them a way to live out their locavore principles. I like to say I went from the Big C to the CSA.”

As part of their passion for sharing locally-grown foods and strong local food systems, the Winums have worked extensively with students, staff, and faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, in Geneva, establishing a weekly pick-up site on campus, participating in the colleges’ bi-annual Local Foods Week events, and assisting students with research papers. They have also been a work-site for St. Benedict Parish’s annual Youth Service Camp, been visited by the Midlakes High School Ag Club, and a Sustainable Ag class from SUNY Geneseo.

Last year, they served 44 families and HWS students through their Community Supported Agriculture program, raised 800 pastured chickens, 55 pastured turkeys, and four farm-raised pigs. Their chicken and produce is on the menu at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, and plans are in the works to be on the menu at more area restaurants including Kindred Fare in Geneva. Being on restaurant menus expands the reach of the farm by giving creative and committed chefs a source for locally-grown pastured meats and vegetables, which consumers are seeking on a more consistent basis.

“CSAs are the most authentic connection between a farmer and eater available. CSA members get the high quality, local food, but they also get a direct connection to their farmer. This model is economically important to farmers, especially small and beginning farmers, because they can grow with confidence knowing they have a market for their produce ahead of time,” says Simon Huntley of Small Farms Central, a technology company that works with CSA farms across the country, and the creator of National CSA Sign-Up Day.

February 26 was chosen as National CSA Sign-Up Day because research shows this is the most popular day to sign up for CSA shares according to the 2014 CSA Farming Report. Buying a CSA share in late winter is important because farmers are making the capital investments for this year’s harvest now, and the CSA model means they do not need to finance these expenses with costly credit.

To encourage local food fans to participate in National CSA Sign-Up Day, Maplestone Farm CSA and Pastured Meats is offering a free pastured chicken or a free farm t-shirt to anyone who signs up for a farm share by March 4.

To learn more about Maplestone Farm and their farming practices, to sign up for a share, or to order meat, eggs, or bread, visit www.maplestonefarm.net. Don’t forget to sign up for their mailing list while you are there, to stay informed of events and products! For information on CSA Sign-Up Day, visit www.csasignupday.com.