CSA puts farm-fresh produce on the table

Published 7:15 pm Thursday, January 17, 2013

Early last week, one of my workdays began with a drive out Cherry Grove Road in Chuckatuck to Cotton Plains Farm.

The farm, where Shelley and Joseph Barlow make their living, is on the banks of the Chuckatuck Creek, about a 40-minute kayak paddle, depending on the tide, from the village itself, Shelley Barlow said.

On this crisp Tuesday morning, Shelley Barlow showed me around her community-supported agriculture vegetable-growing operation.

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She showed me the plot that, when the weather warms up, will be bursting with life, and the packing shed her husband built where her CSA clients stop their cars and trucks to collect baskets of fresh produce.

Since it was the dead of winter, I had to visualize the bustling activity Cotton Plains should see in a couple of months at planting time and a few months after that at harvest.

Barlow grows about 40 different types of vegetables, from staples like potatoes and carrots to other varieties more adventurous.

Folks who sign up for the CSA program pay from about $250 to $300 to receive a basket of produce every week through the summer.

But besides the quality basic ingredients for a host of healthy dishes, their investment also buys them a lifeline to the land.

I’ve never participated in a CSA venture myself, but I image it must be a treat to make a weekly trip out to a farm like the Barlow’s.

Shelley Barlow said she spends a lot of time chatting when folks come to collect their baskets, swapping recipes and other bits of information.

On my way home from work that day, I stopped off at a grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner.

Negotiating through the produce section with my shopping cart, one of its front wheels emitting a metallic squeal, my mind drifted back to Cotton Plains.

I challenge anyone to say in all honesty that they enjoy grocery shopping, but I’ve now learned just the way to make it a whole lot more enjoyable.

According to websites listing local CSA farms, localharves

t.org, buylocalvirginia.org, VaFarmBureau.org/marketplace and virginiagrown.com, Suffolk has more CSA farms than Cotton Plains alone.

Golden Eagle Alpaca Farm, Clayhill Farms, Full Quiver Farm and Acorn Hill Farms Produce all offer fresh vegetables for a reasonable price, and there’s also Batten Bay Farm in Carrollton.

It’s an environmentally friendly and rewarding way to do your shopping.