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Community Supported Agriculture in the Ozarks
By Katherine L. Adam
NCAT Agriculture Specialist
Supported Agriculture, or CSA, represents a direct connection between the
consumer and a local, small farm. A community of individuals pledge
support to a farm so that the farmland becomes, either legally or
spiritually, the community’s farm, with growers and consumers providing
mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
Members or shareholders of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover
anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return,
they receive shares in the farm’s production throughout the growing
season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land.
Members also share in risks, including poor harvest due to unfavorable
weather or pests.
In the Ozarks, typically, small farmers solicit customers for a CSA,
rather than a group of customers hiring a farmer and renting land. Shares
are typically secured well before the growing season begins.
In the Northwest Arkansas part of the Ozarks are three CSA farms: Wildfire
Farm, operated by Marcie Brewster and Diane Schumacher, at Huntsville
(Madison County); Charlotte’s Ranch, operated by Mark and Linda Scarano,
in Fayetteville (Washington County), west of I-540; and the Heifer Ranch,
operated near Perryville by the non-profit Heifer Project International,
on the fringes of the Ozarks, near the Arkansas River, Little Rock, and
Wildfire Farm has been in business several years and serves Carroll,
Madison, and Washington counties. Experienced gardeners Marcie Brewster
and Diane Schumacher provide seasonal vegetables to 10 shareholders.
Fayetteville shareholders pick up weekly at a designated central location.
Shareholders are welcome to come out and visit the remote, isolated farm
to view the gardens, swim, or perhaps spend the night in a yurt. E-mail at
Ranch, operated for the past two years by Mark Scarano and Linda Tichenor
with assistance this year from Sarah Spurrier, provides produce twice
weekly from May to October (about 26 weeks). Shareholders pick up at the
farm, located on the historic Cato Springs Road in SW Fayetteville, in the
shadow of Mt. Kessler. Share prices begin with a half share ($250) for one
person all the way to the El Grande share (7 to 10 people) at $570/season.
A Benton County pick-up site is being arranged. Charlotte’s Ranch is
certified organic by Arkansas Certified Organic (Mountain View, AR 72560).
See the website
The Heifer Ranch CSA, operated on the grounds of the Perryville
headquarters of Heifer Project International under the direction of
gardeners Chuck Crimmons and Andy Olson, serves the Little Rock and Conway
areas. (I can personally attest that the site has the requisite rock
outcroppings to qualify as still being in the Ozarks.) Area families or
individuals can purchase a share or half-share of garden produce, which is
then delivered to a local drop off spot in the central Arkansas area every
week during the growing year (approx. 26 weeks of delivery, from late
April to the end of October). Harvest includes organic vegetables, flowers
and herbs, as well as a weekly garden newsletter with information and
recipes. Shareholders can volunteer to work in the gardens and experience
first hand the rewards of freshly grown produce for a reduced rate.
Contact the gardener, Chuck, at Heifer Ranch for more information and how
to sign up. (501-889-5124 x3650).
Sixteen CSA farms currently operate in Missouri, 2 of them in the Ozarks
(southern MO). They include:
Autumn Lane Farm, Springfield, serving Greater Springfield, Greene, and
Christian Counties, is operated by the Ison family. (417) 833-2072.
Berger Bluff Farm, Berger, MO, is in its 12th year of subscription farming
(CSA), serving families in the St. Louis area. This is a certified organic
farm with historic log buildings on-site.
Other CSA farms in Missouri serve St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City,
Kirksville, Greater Kansas City, and north central Missouri.
See USDA’s National Agricultural Library website
for a national database of CSA farms. See the Robyn van En Center website
www.csacenter.org for further
information on the CSA concept.