Growing power: farms team up to offer CSA

It's surprising that no one in the area has thought of this before–forming a farm cooperative to offer a Community-supported agriculture (CSA) service. That's just what six small area farms have done, formed the Firsthand Farmers Cooperative, which will be having an open house on Sunday, August, 7 at their pick-up location on East Market Street.

"We'll have dairy samples from Mountain View Farm, mushrooms from Sharondale Farm and various produce to taste from Appalachia Star Farm, Twin Springs Farm, Paradox Farm, and Stone House Farm," CSA manager Kathryn Bertoni informs us. "And we'll have  jams, jellies, apple sauce, and honey, too."

You'll also be able to meet the farmers at the open house, which will take place at 1110 East Market Street, suite 10-K, that right just before Carlton Road if you're headed in the direction of the Woolen Mills neighborhood.

The cooperative began to take shape in 2007 when Bertoni and her husband Michael, owners of Appalachia Star Farm in Roseland, started working with a dairy, Mountain View Farm, that they knew from the Lexington farmer's market, in offering cheese shares to their CSA members.  They then started offering other dairy items and mushrooms from Sharondale Farm.

But as the CSA grew Bertoni says it became difficult to keep using their old drop off locations, which were a bakery and a bookstore.

"We started brainstorming about how it would be great to have a permanent location, " says Bertoni, "and we also wanted to offer more products,  but not necessarily have to grow everything ourselves. "

In the fall of 2010, the Bertoni's put out the word that they were interested in partnering with other farmers, and eventually the six incorporated themselves as an agricultural cooperative. 
"We love the model because, as a group, we can share the costs of operating and also offer more products to our members," says Bertoni. " Also, as a cooperative, we farmers can pool together and order supplies as a group, allowing us to save on bulk purchases and shipping."

Here's how it works. You pay a subscription fee to join, $50 a growing season, which helps cover the cost of delivery and administration. then choose whatever number and type of shares you want. You can pay monthly for the shares, or all at once, then just head on down to the pick-up location on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Thursdays between 4pm and 6pm and pick-up the goods. In addition to vegetable shares, they offer daily and beef shares as well.Bertoni says there are still shares available for the fall season.

Visit their website at for pricing informations.


Actually, Bellair Farm CSA, which is in its first year, does something similar, pulling in delicious meats, breads, honey, cheese, and mushrooms from other farmers and producers!

I am curious. Do these types of cooperatives have to have the same inspections and cleaning procedures as mainstream suppliers?

Say what you want but for the amount of food that is produced/imported everyday there are not that many outbreaks of sickness.