farmers, growers work together
fresh, nutritious food available
I have a passion for good
food, healthy soils, and fairness to farmers, said Sister
Claire Whalen, president of the Laughery Valley Growers FarmFresh
CSA. Whalen began the CSA in 2006 after retiring from Michaela
Farm. I wanted to continue to work and I had ideas that
I wanted to develop regarding sustainable farming, she continued.
The Laughery Valley Growers is a collaboration of local farmers/growers
in Ripley and Franklin counties. The FarmFresh CSA, or community
supported agriculture, creates a direct relationship between those
who want to eat safe, fresh nutritious food and those who grow
it. Growers from around Ripley County and surrounding areas agree
to provide a weekly share of their harvest to subscribers, who
pay in advance of the harvest season.
According to participating grower Andy Schewe, the CSA is a great
way for the community to support agriculture. Schewe grows different
types of salad greens for the co-op at Wind Dance Farm, his familys
farm on the edge of Ripley County.
Schewe, a co-op grower for two years, practices intensive farming
where the produce is closely planted in order to prevent weeds.
He also uses organic methods of gardening. Besides contributing
to CSA, Schewe offers his produce for sale at the Madison Grove
CSA in Madison and at the Northside Market in Cincinnati.
Wind Dance Farm also produces a variety of herbs, which are used
in the soaps made by Schewes mother, Mary. The several gardens
provide such delicacies as squash, potatoes, okra, popcorn, pawpaws
(native to Indiana) and Jerusalem artichokes, which are not artichokes
at all, but rather a tuber similar to a potato, according to Schewe.
Produce provided by other growers include corn, onions, pumpkins,
and other vegetables in season. Fruit from local orchards as well
as growers will also be in the weekly boxes. Strawberries are
provided by grower Mike Swango, Holton, and apples and pears provided
by Salatin Orchards in Moores Hill. Its important
for people to have good, fresh fruits and vegetables, said
Swango. In fact, the produce found in the CSA subscription boxes
was picked and packed within 12 hours.
Swango, along with wife, Christy and son, Paul, has been growing
for the CSA for three years. Through the use of beneficial insects,
Swango has been able to reduce the need for pesticides. According
to Swango, there are no chemicals on his produce.
Its a lot of work, but its worth it, he
said. Swango and his family can and freeze a lot of their produce
grown. Its how I was raised, he said.
My goal in life is to be on the farm and never leave,
said Swango. We have a great life!
Another grower in the Holton area, Sue and Kenny Keyes, provide
corn, eggplant, and a variety of squashes, hot peppers, watermelon
and tomatoes as well as other types of produce.
The FarmFresh CSA also helps to ensure income for the local grower.
According to Schewe, prices are set each winter by the co-op.
The co-op tries to give fair prices to growers, he
Swango agrees. The growers get a good price for their produce,
he said. Its a win-win situation.
Purchasing produce through the CSA allows for traceability in
the event of a food safety incident. Accurate records are kept
of the produce received each week from each grower, according
to Whalen. This information would be available to authorities
investigating a claim. It also serves to protect the reputation
of the grower.
There are 50 shares offered for the 2009 season on a first come,
first serve basis. The weekly portion averages, a half bushel,
enough for two adults and one child, according to Whalen. Subscribers
share the risk of bad weather with the growers. Each week, the
food offered by the CSA changes depending on what produce is available.
New this year is a green market at the Walhill Farm in Batesville,
owned by Peter Hillenbrand. When subscribers arrive to pick up
their boxes of produce at the renovated winery building, they
will also have the opportunity to purchase other vegetables, meat
and other products not found in the boxes.
Everyone is welcome to visit the green market, according
to Whalen. Opening day is Tuesday, June 9 and the market will
run every Tuesday through October 27 from 5-8 p.m. Whalen noted
that there will be artisans and those who sell value added products
such as jams, jellies or salsa.
Those who enjoy fresh grains will have the opportunity to purchase
fresh grains from a grower in Rushville, and grind the grain before
they leave. Theres nothing that tastes better than
homemade bread made from fresh grains, said Whalen.
Local food growers and producers are invited to set up a booth
at the green market. According to the market rules, vendors must
sell only locally grown produce with all baked and processed foods
approved by the applicable health agencies.
There is a fee charged for set up at the green market. For more
information, contact Claire Whalen at 812-933-0181 or Walhill
Farm manager, Terry Prickel at 812-934-2600. Information on the
Laughery Valley Growers, as well as a link to the FarmFresh CSA,
can be found by visiting www.foodandgrowers.org.
The CSA supplies good food to the community, said
Swango, and that makes the community stronger.
BETH RUMSEY PHOTOS
ABOVE: Andy Schewe, a CSA grower, works in his gardens
on Wind Dance Farm, where he grows many items for the co-op.
He uses intensive farming to minimize weeds. BELOW: Mike
and son, Paul Swango, of Holton, enjoy farming. They, too,
are suppliers for the co-op and believe everyone should
benefit from fresh fruits and vegetables.