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Local abundance just around the corner.

At this time of year in western North Carolina, the trees have shed their leaves and the mountains are taking a rest from their flurry of summer and autumn visitors. This is a season that asks us to notice the crisp air these mountains give us and the quietness of shorter days Many of us appreciate this season because it gives us permission to stay inside with a good book and a good cup of tea before we are thrown into the warm excitement of the coming springtime.

It may seem odd in the middle of winter to think about the abundance of fresh, locally raised food that spring will bring to the southern Appalachians. But farmers across the region are busy planning their season. What crops will be planted? Which varieties? How much will be grown, and where will it be sold? In a few short months, they'll be loading up their trucks full of the freshest, most nutritious fruits, vegetables, and other farm products around. They'll be heading to local farmers' tailgate markets, restaurants, and grocery stores to make it available to eager customers who value the unique Appalachian flavor that our area's climate, soil, and water provide.

CSA is another way many farmers will make their goods available in the coming spring. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and it represents a direct connection between farmers and consumers. CSA farms are essentially subscription farms-to join a CSA farm is to buy a share of the season's harvest. Before the season starts, as the farmer plans the upcoming year, shares are sold to members of the community. The farmer then plans his or her plantings accordingly. Every week throughout the season, the CSA communitY picks up a box of fresh produce from that week's harvest at convenient area locations. CSA farms also encourage the community to come to the farm and even to participate in growing their food.

The relationships between farmers, and consumers encouraged by the Community Supported Agriculture model serve both groups. Farmers gain the security of knowing at least a portion of their harvest has been paid for, and they have funds available early in the season to produce an abundant crop. Members of the CSA community get to participate in how and where their food is grown. By getting a taste of the harvest each week throughout the season, they also get to know the variety of produce available in this area and when each comes into season. Farmers and consumers together build trusting relationships through the direct connection of a CSA. Not only do consumers get to put a face and place on the food they eat, but farmers also get to put a face and place On who eats the food they grow-something altogether missing for most consumers and farmers alike.

Typically, food changes hands an average of thirty-three times before it ever reaches anybody's dinner table, and it travels an average of 1,300 miles to get there. This modern system of food production and consumption distances consumers from producers, and it depends on costly shipping and fuel infrastructure. Lucky for us, the mountains of western North Carolina are home to many small family farms that that often grow a wide variety of farm products for a local market rather than a national or global market. We are fortunate to live in a region that boasts a whole host of CSA farms. This makes connections to our working landscape and human communities available to us-connections that are so often missing for modern consumers.

By connecting to a CSA farm, consumers are able to create valuable relationships and at the same time, they help maintain the unique characteristics of this region. Western North Carolina is a fantastic place to live or to visit in part because we have a rich history of family farming that continues into the present, as evidenced by the picturesque working landscape of our mountains. By supporting area family farms, consumers help ensure the natural and cultural legacy of these mountains continues into the future. An appreciation of farms and regional culture, coupled with the special mountain flavor that comes from our soil, water, climate, and long growing season combine to create a truly unique Appalachian flavor that can be found, among other places, by subscribing to a CSA farm.

To find your CSA farm and start planning for the local abundance that's just around the corner, see the listing in this issue of New Life JournaL You can also find the great taste of locally grown Appalachian Flavor at local farms, markets, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and grocery stores in the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project's Local Food Guide. The Local Food Guide can be found throughout the region and on the web at www.BuyAppalachian.org.

Libby Hinsley is the Local Food Campaign Coordinator for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. Contact her at 828-236-1282 or libby@asapconnections.org
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Title Annotation:buying local
Author:Hinsley, Libby
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1U5NC
Date:Dec 1, 2004
Words:821
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