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Community-supported farms gaining ground

"No one really takes count of it, and it changes every year," she says. "Every farmer doesn't register; they advertise whenever they have time. One farmer may put an ad in four or five databases."

'We're their vegetables'

If taking an accurate census of community-ag projects is problematic, finding one near you is easy, according to Chris Mayer, program manager of the Richard Alsina Fulton Center for Sustainable Living at Wilson College in Chambersburg , Pa.

There are 1,340 community-supported ag programs currently listed on the database of the Wilson College Robyn Van En Center, named for the woman who pioneered the community-supported agriculture movement in America back in the mid-1980s.

"We have seen about a 13 percent increase in CSAs over the past two years," Mayer says.

You may be surprised at how local, your local ag program may be. Mayer says the Fulton Center frequently consults with cities large and small as well as corporate campuses, planned developments and even retirement communities interested in exploring community-assisted agriculture.

"We recently had a town in Massachusetts that had a vacant property in town and were wondering about doing a municipal CSA," she says. "Corporate campuses have a lot of open space. We talked to one company that said they had a ready-made audience right there in their corporate headquarters."

Wilson College has its own nonprofit community-ag program that operates from May through Thanksgiving Day each year. Some of its 100 subscribers are college faculty and staff, while a nearby retirement community provides ready volunteer farmers.

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"I tend to talk about how you put the 'community' into 'community-supported agriculture,'" Mayer says. "When you're working elbow to elbow, you form great friendships. We do educational events and potluck suppers here on the farm and show a barn movie once a month in the summer."

"We really try hard to keep this group together. They're our bread and butter, and we're their vegetables," she says.

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