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3 Local CSA’s Build Community Support

By Staff | Aug 4, 2009

Christy Phillips from Hughesville sells produce every Wednesday and Saturday in front of her home on Railroad Street.


Local farmers work together to bring fresh food to the table for local consumers through the use of CSA’s or fresh food co-ops. Community supported agriculture programs are designed to deliver fresh produce that is grown naturally or organically. State sponsored programs are in place to help consumers learn how to cook more at home using locally grown produce from nearby farmers. Currently three local farms in the East Lycoming area deliver produce in shares or allow members to work their own plot in exchange for shares.

Some communities have set up unused blocks of land through agricultural grants to grow vegetables for public use. Recently a proposal was made to the Muncy Borough to start a public commumity garden and will be considered at a future time. Lime Bluff Recreation Park wants to use some of their land for a community garden as well.

Old Lycoming Township recently started a public community garden under the direction of communtiy development planner, Rochelle Ricotta.

Pennsylvania has set up several non-profit organizations to encourage the public to buy locally. In return it will fuel the economy to foster community growth and save on energy and transportation costs for the goods. CSA’s are based on food sufficiency and a way to get it to everyone. Boxes of fresh produce can be delivered to your front door.

John Tewksbury from Grace Farm in Muncy prepares fresh carrots for member shares.

Resources are available for the development of smaller farms in the state to create work for people as long as there is land. CSA means community sponsored agriculture program.

This option starts with a one time payment to the grower and a subsequent delivery of fresh produce is made each week to the consumer. Customers pay by the week, month or for the season. A box of fresh produce is delivered each week. This option is good if you can’t make it to a local grower’s market.

Every CSA has different guidelines but overall a direct link is made to the consumer. There is no middle man and people know exactly the source of their food. A more personal connection is made between those who grow the food and those who eat it according to three local CSA’s in East Lycoming. One thing they all have in common is having much respect for the environment and they all use organic methods.

Community Supported Agriculture is a direct connection between the farmers and the consumers. To join a CSA is to buy a share of the season’s harvest. The farmer gains the security of knowing he or she has been paid for a portion of the harvest and the farmer’s “community” participates in how and where their food is grown. This direct connection puts the face and place of food in full view. Before the start of the season, when the farmer is planning the upcoming year, shares are sold to members of the community at a fixed price. The farmer plans the plantings to meet the shares that have been sold. Every week throughout the season, the CSA community receives a box of that week’s harvest. Most of the local CSAs will deliver to several convenient area locations, but they always encourage the community to come to the farm, and even to participate in the growing of their food.

Food Alliance Certified?The Food Alliance is a nonprofit organization that certifies farms and ranches and food handlers (including packers, processors and distributors) for sustainable agricultural and business practices. These businesses use Food Alliance certification to make credible claims for social and environmental responsibility, to differentiate and add value to products, and to protect and enhance brands. Certified farmers and ranchers meet stringent standards. With Food Alliance certification, commercial food buyers and consumers can be confident they are supporting farmers, ranchers, and food handlers with a real commitment to environmental stewardship and the health and wellbeing of their customers and communities.

Ruth Steck and Luann Potter owners of Star Wind Farm in Pennsdale grow their crops using organic methods. They also raise Devon cows and free range chickens for eggs.

Backyard “Blessons’ Farm

HUGHESVILLE – Christy Phillips from Hughesville first opened her CSA just last year. She was a former employee of the Sullivan Planning Commission, so she was well aware of the need to offer a community supported agricultural outlet for residents in Hughesville. She first learned about CSA’s six years ago and during that time educated herself as much as possible on organic growing, soil nutrition, mulching and cover crops. “I always liked to garden,” she said, “and gardening was always my hobby. I learned from my grandparents who learned from their grandparents. Canning and preserving food was a big part of my life while growing up. I remember being very busy in the garden at a very young age snapping peas and green beans. “

Christy can be seen every Wednesday and Saturday during the growing and harvest seasons at the end of South Railroad Street in Hughesville where she has a produce stand in front of her home. The produce comes from land she leases for farming located on Angletown Road in Muncy. ” I really wanted to do this after I learned that the environment and the foods we eat are directly related to cancer. I have family members who had cancer and I want to educate the public about fresh, grown food.” Philips went to the Hughesville Borough Council last year to seek permission to raise her own chickens and grow her own organic food for distribution. She made flyers to help her start a membership drive for a community supported agriculture program after first growing produce in her own back yard. She was able to acquire enough customers to get started and soon she was able to lease some land nearby to have enough shares to support her CSA. She constructed a greenhouse by herself using information and research from the Internet and publications from Agricultural Science and land grant universities such as Penn State. “There was a wealth of information out there for me,” added Phillips. “Working in the fields is very tranquil for me,” she concluded. She spends about sixty hours a week in the six acres she leases from Fred Pfieffer, a Montgomery resident who purchased the former Peterman’s Market in Muncy. Next month they hope to add a new deli and ice cream parlor in addition to the farmer’s market and next year Phillips wants to add working shares.

She hopes to educate others that growing food can be done organically in our own back yards with no pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Star Wind Farms

PENNSDALE – Ruth Steck and Luanne Potter got turned on to home grown food at a young age and now they desire to help other young people learn about fresh food. They hold cooking demonstrations and talk to people about growing their own food. Steck says that people are starting slowly and communities are starting to be more aware of where their food comes from. We try to educate the consumer about local foods and building relationships with local farmers,” said Steck. “We talk to people about food,” said Potter “and people need to ask where their food comes from,” she added. “We like to build consumer awareness and work with the people who buy food from us.” They went on to say that on an average, grocery stores bring in food that could travel up to 1500 miles to get here. “Add the transportation and fuel costs, and the energy adds up,” replies Steck. “You can see where the cost savings are going to be by growing your own food for consumption, plus it is fresh from the ground to your mouth. Our society does depend on industrial farming and we need it but locally grown food is not genetically modified and the taste is so much better,” she said. “People like that and we teach them how to grow food from seed. They can use our land as working shares or sign up to have shares delivered,” said Potter. “We are a teaching garden and host workshops and herbal studies for flavoring food. Some of our flowers are edible such as Nasturtiums and bachelor buttons. We love to teach people how to make kitchen gardens and we add fresh cut flowers to our member shares.”

For the past four years, Star Wind Farm has been raising over 47 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes, several varieties of beans and nine varieties of potatoes organically grown on almost two acres of land located on Narber Fry Road in Pennsdale. They started with one member that first year then seven the second year and now they are up to twenty two members. Much of their time is spent building the soil and tilling it under by hand. “Start with lively healthy soil and you will have less trouble with pests and diseases,” said Steck. Companion planting is another method they use to keep their vegetables from harmful organisms.

Potter announced that is impossible to grow all the food needed to feed the region but CSA’s are a good answer to have small local farmers work together to share and create a food shed. “It can be done,” she said.

The two women also raise chickens and American Milking Devon cows, a rare breed from Devonshire, England. They are currently working on a special project with the state to preserve them and breed them. Their plans for the future are to build a milking parlor and sell fresh dairy cheeses and milk.

Tewksbury Grace Farm


For the past decade Leah & John Tewksbury have been attempting to outwit cucumber beetles and squash bugs on their 1.5 acres of raised beds. Currently their farm is one of three on-farm research sites taking part in a cucurbit pest study funded by the Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE) program. Recently a PASA (Pennsylvania Associaton for Sustainable Agriculture) workshop was held in July 28 at their farm explaining the project. Participants heard directly from the Tewksburys and other research participants: Cathy & Kit Kelley and Anne & Eric Nordell. They discussed in detail on how on-farm trials are impacting their cucurbit production, while utilizing row covers, as well as introduced pollinators. Penn State entomologist Shelby Fleischer was on hand to provide information on pollinators and the results from Tewksbury’s research and other sources on beetle and disease management in cucurbits. “We can get real good yields if we can control the cucumber beetles and squash bugs,” said John Tewksbury. A special crop cover is placed over the top of the plants and the pollinators are placed inside the barrier. An irrigation system is gravity fed through special drip lines from collected rainwater on the farm.?The Tewksburys produce sustainably-grown heirloom vegetables, herbs, and shiitake mushrooms on their farm located on 21 acres of mixed farmland, open meadows and hardwood forest. Currently they are in their second year of offering a CSA to 33 families and 4 restaurants in the area.

Every Friday a typical week’s full share bag from Tewksbury Grace Farm in August will include salad green mix with a large variety of different greens, red cabbage, gold beets, bell peppers, eggplant, cucumbers and mixed berries. “We strive for exceptional flavor and variety,” said Tewksbury. “We feature old fashioned and unusual seeds such as these purple beans,” he added. “This kind of quality can only be found in diversified local farm systems. We produce at least 70 different crops during the growing season and we do not use any chemical fertilizers. We use composting ‘Lasagne style’ and good drainage. Everything is done by hand. Our salad mix is our specialty using 12 to 14 cuts of green edible flowers and herbs such as this pineapple sage. It is one of our trademark items. We like to deliver fresh food to the table, especially if it is picked that day. Our unusual varieties have a longer shelf life and we focus on taste.”

The Tewksbury’s work feverishly all season long. They also like to set up tours once or twice during the season. Last year they held a tomato fest for their members where everyone brought their own bread and handpicked their own food.

It is a niche market but the Tewksbury’s are hoping more people will catch on to CSA’s. They are looking forward to harvesting their cold weather crops of unusual salad greens, cabbages and winter squash.