On a morning in early June, the Siena Farms’ crew lines up hundreds of bushels of just-harvested veggies to start packing farm share boxes for their CSA members. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, a subscription-based business model which has seen explosive growth for small farms across the country during the pandemic.
As each CSA box travels down the pack-line, a crew member delicately places freshly picked spring radishes, peppery arugula, meaty shiitake mushrooms, and sweet green garlic into the box. At the end of the pack line, the box is chock full with more than 15 different types of veggies, gets stacked in a refrigerated van, and heads off for home delivery to the farm’s CSA members. Starting this week, Siena Farms is offering home delivery and neighborhood pickup of their vegetable shares and specialty mushroom shares to addresses throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Chris Kurth, owner of Siena Farms in Sudbury, Massachusetts, started his 75-acre farm 17 years ago on family farmland he grew up, on after studying biology and philosophy at Williams College, where he fell in love with farming. Siena Farms uses regenerative, biological agricultural practices; free of chemical herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers to grow their produce. Today, the farm grows over 100 varieties of veggies for its year-round CSA membership, operates two small retail farm stores in Boston, and provides vegetables to Kurth’s wife Ana Sortun, acclaimed chef/owner of Oleana restaurant and Sofra Bakery in Cambridge, MA.
One of Kurth’s long-term goals is to see the CSA model of sourcing groceries direct from farms become mainstream across the Northeast region. Prior to the pandemic, Kurth reports that it had been very challenging to make his business profitable, even in the best of seasons. In March 2020, as the initial Covid-19 lockdown was rolled out, he felt the ground shift.
Kurth recounts, “I’ll never forget the magical day that spring, it was in March, on a Sunday, when the CSA tsunami rolled in.” During the weeks and months to follow, new farm share registrations came in through their website at an unprecedented rate, resulting in a 400% growth in the farm’s CSA membership compared to 2019.
Two years later, this historic surge of consumer interest in local food has allowed the farm to grow in ways Kurth had only dreamt possible. For the first time in nearly two decades, he had the ability to make substantial infrastructure improvements to the farm, as well as achieve a long-held goal of offering his employees health insurance. The farm launched a Community Sponsored Farm Share Program, in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Boston and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, to bring the farm’s fresh vegetables to local families facing food insecurity. And their brand new Employer Sponsored Share Program provides discounted bulk farm shares for local businesses to offer as a wellness benefit to their employees.
As Kurth shares, “I have a belief that if Employer-Sponsored Farm Share programs were to become as common as, say, employer-sponsored health insurance plans, the benefits for public health would be meaningful, and the benefits to the region’s agricultural economy would be stunning. I would love for my farm to play even a small role in this kind of real and lasting cultural change, as this new chapter unfolds.”
To reserve a Siena Farms CSA farm share this summer click HERE! Now through 7/1/22, readers of the West Side Rag can get 10% off their order using the code SienaUWS at checkout.
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