CSA: Building a food community (with photos)

By Erika Mahoney

July 5, 2013 Updated Jul 5, 2013 at 9:56 PM EDT

Susquehanna, PA (WBNG Binghamton) Every Saturday, fresh fruits and vegetables make their way to Otsiningo Park in Binghamton for the summer's weekly farmers market.

Behind the baskets of produce are hard working farmers and community members.

"My husband, Bret and I, and Hazel, live on the farm," said Stephanie Roberts, co-owner of Hemlock Creek CSA. "It's about 300 acres. We have about five acres in production."

Rows and rows of Swiss chard, kale, tomatoes, turnips, sugar snap peas and more bring color to the acres of land.

With an 8-month-old bouncing on her hip, she admits taking care of the farm can be hard at times, especially when the weather is extreme.

"We harvest twice a week for market. Once things like beans and squash are coming in, we're harvesting a lot more than that."

Luckily the family has help.

About three seasons ago, they ventured into Community Supported Agriculture.

Members buy a share of the bounty at the start of the season, and get to pick it up every Saturday at the farmers market at Otsiningo.

As part of the program, they also get to help out in the cultivation.

"It helps them have some ownership over the farm," said Roberts. "And so, they see the struggles we go through with the seasons. It's emotional support, but it's also financial support because they help give us that financial boost to start the season."

Members can help at the market or on the farm.

Anne Malaktaris, a Binghamton University graduate student, opted for the farm.

"I love being out here, under the sun, and helping out, even if it's raining, which it is a lot," said Malaktaris, "But I really like that part of it, the process, and getting dirty."

The working CSA members harvest the vegetables that are ready, and then wash them at a washing station.

"After the veggies are washed, we store them in our walk in cooler, pack them up first thing in the morning, and they're fresh as can be for the market," said Roberts.

"There's a lot less steps to get your food to you," Malaktaris said. "So it's a much more efficient way to eat. And we are so lucky to live in a part of the country that has such a huge variety of fruits and vegetables."

Roberts says having people on the farm, partaking in the joy, is one of the best parts of her job.

"Really, my favorite part is our connection to our customers."

That's a part of the process that CSA farms are helping grow.

The farmers market at Otsiningo Park in Binghamton is open from 9 a.m. to about 1 p.m. every Saturday.

The produce of Hemlock Creek CSA is available to non-members at the market as well.