Saturday, December 19, 2009

New fruit CSA begins next summer

Daring Drake Farm in Interlaken, NY will begin offering a fruit CSA this summer. People interested in joining pay in advance and then receive a box of fruit weekly throughout the summer. Although many vegetable CSAs operate in Central New York, fruit CSAs are rare. (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.)

Daring Drake Farm offers a wide range of fruit for a 20-week season, including different varieties of strawberries, cherries, currants, raspberries, melons, gooseberries, apples, pears, sea berries, blueberries, elderberries, grapes, quince, and a few peaches. The farm also produces jams, jellies, duck eggs, cider, and perry (a pear drink similar to cider).

"We started the CSA to foster and build a bond between the farm and the folks who purchase our fruit," says John Reynolds, who farms with Shannon O'Connor and their future-farmer toddler. "The CSA model allows us to have a guaranteed sale of a certain amount of the fruit (important since many fruits have very short shelf life) while also guaranteeing access to all the varieties, including the ones with limited quantities, to the members."

That bond helps Reynolds know how to please his regular customers, by responding to requests for favorite varieties, for example. And that kind of information is crucial for fruit growers, who must wait for years after planting perennial crops to harvest the fruit.

Daring Drake is not certified organic but Reynolds and O'Connor have signed an organic pledge through NOFA-NY. "We like to think we farm organic plus, which is why we are not certified through a third party," says Reynolds. "We feel that the organic guidelines established by the USDA do not go far enough to ensure the production of healthy foods, protection of the environment and small family farms. The guidelines were written for large agribusiness to enter and dominate the organic market."

When they began planting fruit trees seven years ago, the farm's focus on fruit was natural. The long term goal was to start a hard cidery and Reynolds has experience in perennial fruit culture. And why pair ducks with fruit? They help out with pest control and natural fertilizer, and provide tasty eggs with large, rich yolks.

Daring Drake is now the second farm offering a fruit CSA in Ithaca. The Full Plate Farm Collective also offers a fruit CSA, which Ithaca's Food Web reported on earlier this year.

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