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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Community-Supported Farms

Air Date: Week of

Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts finishes out the year.


CURWOOD: The Amish lifestyle is one way to care for the earth and ensure a supply of locally grown food. Another way is a community-supported farm, where members pay up front for a share of the season's produce and the option to work at and enjoy the farm. We've been visiting this year with the owners and members of Caretaker Farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Elizabeth and Sam Smith turned their commercial organic operation into a community-supported one a few years ago, in an effort to ensure a steady income and build a closer relationship with their community. They're with us on the line. Thanks for joining us one last time.

E. SMITH: Welcome, Steve.

S. SMITH: Greetings.

CURWOOD: Well tell me, how did it go this year? Did all the crops come in the way you wanted?

S. SMITH: Yes, Steve. It was one of the best years we've had. Practically every crop came in, almost as well as you could possibly wish.

CURWOOD: You've had a hard frost at Caretaker Farm, but of course you're still eating. What do you still have to distribute to your members?

E. SMITH: From the gardens, we still have beautiful kale and some Brussels sprouts still out there. They get better with the frost: sweeter and even more tender. And then, from the root cellar, from crops that have already been harvested and have been stored away for the winter, leeks and parsnips and rutabagas and carrots and potatoes and onions.

CURWOOD: Well it sounds pretty good. How long will all this last? When will your root cellar be - run on empty?

E. SMITH: Probably, last year we still had potatoes and onions into March.

CURWOOD: Now tell me about the money this year, Sam. The crop was good. How were the finances? You had a budget of about $75,000 as I recall.

S. SMITH: It was slightly under that. We had a budget of $68,500. We came in maybe a few thousand dollars below that, and the community voluntarily will kick in the difference, which will amount to no more probably than about $5 per adult in the community.

CURWOOD: So you have a bit of a shortfall this year. Are you going to change how you do things next year as a result?

S. SMITH: Yeah. The reason for the slight shortfall was, is that every member could pledge support in a range, and if it was a 2-adult household, then the range would have been anywheres from $490 to $630, with the hope that the average pledge to the farm was about $585. Next year, we're going to eliminate the range, so we won't have that kind of a problem.

CURWOOD: Do you want to share with us now some of the lessons of the past year?

E. SMITH: I would like to have more participation from the members of the community. Perhaps some kind of a work requirement from everyone. Say, 2 hours a year or something like that. I'd like to see them get down into the dirt a little bit. Not that we need their help as much as I think that they would enjoy doing it.

CURWOOD: Well, listen. Thank you both for taking this time with us throughout the whole growing season, having Living On Earth come out to visit you in Williamstown at Caretaker Farm. And the time that you spent with us on the telephone. Sam and Elizabeth Smith, thank you both very much.

E. SMITH: Thank you.

S. SMITH: Thank you, Steve. It's been wonderful.



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