Fall marks the beginning of the main growing season for farmers in deep South Miami-Dade County. It’s also a time when veggie-lovers can join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program.
CSA members pay in advance for fresh produce grown at local farms, explained Diane Diaz, who helps run Teena’s Pride CSA in Homestead.
Members get a share of the CSA’s harvest, the size of which will depend in part on Mother Nature.
“It’s kind of like buying stocks into the farm, and as long as we don’t have a hurricane or a freeze, then your stocks are secure,” she said.
Members pay upfront so the farmer has the money needed to start growing. The first boxes of produce are typically picked in November, and the fresh veggies usually keep coming through April.
The produce is picked and packed into boxes that are shipped to distribution points around Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Members pick up their share of the harvest at the distribution points, which can be at a supermarket or even a fellow member’s home.
What’s in your box depends on what’s seasonal. Fast-growing greens are abundant at the beginning of the season, and root vegetables — which take longer to grow — are ready later in the season.
“We’re so used to that supermarket experience, that we can get anything at anytime, that people aren’t used to that seasonality,” said Margie Pikarsky, who runs the organic Bee Heaven Farm CSA. “When they’re ready, you get whatever there is. You don’t get to choose.”
Teena’s Pride has been boxing just-picked heirloom tomatoes, herbs and greens for local-food aficionados for about four years. Their CSA has about 300 members, but the farm is looking to grow the program to 500 supporters this season.
“You’re getting the freshest, best vegetables in the world,” Diaz said. “If you have a store that has a Tuesday delivery, those vegetables were cut Monday. You can’t go anywhere, to any store, and get vegetables that were cut the day before.”
The farm has also focused on educating people about healthy food and local growing. Teena’s Pride opens its doors once a month during growing season so people can get to know their farmers.
“People have become much more educated on what their food is and they know now that freshly harvested produce has more nutritional value,” said Teena Borek, the namesake of the farm.
For organic foodies, Bee Heaven has run a CSA since 2002. Theirs is a coalition of about five small, local farms. For an additional fee, members can opt to also receive locally-raised eggs, goat cheese, Florida Keys sea salt and rice.
“Everything we have is either certified organic or pesticide-free,” Pikarsky said. “I know who the farmers are. I meet them. I see what they’re doing, and I make sure they’re not doing what’s not acceptable.”
The cost of buying into a CSA depends on the share-size you need. A season through Teena’s Pride lasts about 24 weeks, while a season through Bee Heaven usually lasts 20 weeks.
Family-sized shares, which feed about four people, run for about $1,000 at Teena’s Pride. A family share through Bee Heaven costs about $700 for the season.
Both CSAs offer a intermediate sized-share, which feeds 2-3 people and costs about $650 through Teena’s Pride and $400 through Bee Heaven
Teena’s Pride also offers a 1/4 share for one person, for about $500.
Teena’s Pride accepts members throughout the season and pro-rates the price for latecomers. Bee Heaven members usually have to buy-in by November to join in the harvest.
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