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Meet Our Members | February 2024

Name: Dave Trumble & Sarah Hansen

Business: Local Harvest CSA

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In his preface to the book, Local Harvest—a  multi-farm CSA handbook, Dave Trumble of Good Earth Farm in Weare said this: “Farming is sometimes a solitary occupation and having CSA customers interested and sometimes assisting in your daily tasks can make it more enjoyable. Working together with other farmers to create a second layer of community is deeply rewarding and fulfilling in ways that transcend being appreciated. It creates a brotherhood and sisterhood of like-minded souls who can work together, share ideas, and help each other out.”

This concept was the basis for starting Local Harvest CSA. Back in 2002, a small group of interested farmers gathered monthly to hammer out the structure of a cooperative that would become the first multi-farm CSA in New Hampshire. By the first produce pickup day in June 2003, there were 128 members and a considerable waiting list for 2004.

The farmers continued monthly meetings, using member surveys to evaluate their successes and failures and to formulate goals for the next season. Their discussions included which crops to grow, employee accountability, pricing, vegetable packing standards, and a long-term vision for the co-op.

Local Harvest has fine-tuned its methods over the years. During that time, some farms withdrew from the CSA and new farms joined. It has expanded to 300 members and retains 60 to 70 percent of members from year-to-year. Many have been with Local Harvest for years.

“Size does matter,” Dave asserts. “When we were 200 members, we were just barely able to pay our bills. At 250 members, we ran smoothly and ended up with a small profit. At 300 members, we’re able to run the business and not have to worry about whether we can afford a site assistant or pay an employee who works a few overtime hours.”

Local Harvest now has six certified-organic farms:

  • Good Earth Farm, Weare

  • Kearsarge Gore Farm, Warner

  • Sweet Beet Farm, Bradford

  • Open Woods Farm, Grafton

  • Middle Branch Farm, New Boston

  • Stoneridge Farm, Bradford

 

“Our farms range between two and five acres,” CSA Administrative Manager Sarah ­Hansen explains. “Some focus on a few crops, and others plant the whole range. Our bylaws require that every farmer who joins Local Harvest CSA must be certified organic.”

“The farmers are responsible for growing the vegetables,” she continues. “Because we pool our resources, we can have an Administrative Manager and a Member Coordinator who oversee the marketing, share the packing and communicate with members.“

“Our ability to gather produce from different farms allows us to supplement shares from any farm. We have a clear set of packing standards that each farmer must follow that maintains consistent bunch size, quality standards and overall freshness of our offerings.” 

Local Harvest’s vegetable season runs from May to November. The farmers send Dave a weekly list of their availability on Sundays. He creates a share for that week based on what’s available and sends pick lists to each farm and the Member Coordinator, who compiles share contents, farmer stories and recipes into a weekly member newsletter. The farmers deliver produce to two packing locations where the shares are packed. The shares are then either picked up from these locations or delivered to area businesses for pickup the following day.

Local Harvest offers a three-week spring share, an 18-week summer share, and a five-week fall share. Shares are available for pickup at six different locations and include a wide variety of vegetables, eggs, flowers and maple syrup plus bread from Abigail’s Bakery.

“Our growers benefit by knowing that if one has a down season, the CSA won’t suffer because other farms can make up the difference,” Sarah says. “Our CSA members benefit by knowing the vegetable shares they get on Wednesday or Thursday are usually picked the day before, and their shares won’t be repetitive week after week. The shares are a mix of varieties from each farm, which keeps the weekly shares a little more exciting.“

“We’ve worked very hard to reduce our use of plastic in our shares. Since we switched to our new pre-bagged system, we have seen a large decrease in the amount of single-use plastic bags we use each week. We have also reduced our fossil fuel usage by delivering vegetables from multiple farms in every trip.”

Local Harvest CSA is looking for new certified organic growers. It has extensive records about what crops it requires on a seasonal basis and can give interested farmers information on what it buys and what sells best.

“We believe small, organic farms are the future,” Sarah states. “Our systems align with how we want the world to be. We want to provide an opportunity for more young farmers to join a healthy cooperative with a proven distribution and marketing infrastructure already in place. We want Local Harvest CSA to be a opportunity for farmers who just want to farm.”

 “The biggest challenge small organic growers face is the co-opting of organic labeling by big agriculture. Many large-scale producers use loopholes to skirt the original intent of organic. Something labeled ‘organic’ at a grocery store may be grown without pesticides, but it may also be grown in a soilless medium in a lightless warehouse, harvested by robots and delivered weeks later to your local supermarket. We believe the intent of organic is to create communities around farms who give back to the land what they get out of it and to build holistic, healthy food systems.”

“Another challenge is conveying to potential members how easy it is to fit a CSA into their life. They may have a notion they’ll never get through what they’ve ordered and waste food. Or they won’t know what to do with a certain vegetable. We offer three different share sizes and let members switch share sizes during the season if their current size is too big or small.”

“NOFA-NH is our go-to for farming resources. We rely it for policy outreach at the statehouse and increased visibility for small organic farmers in our state. We’re excited about its Transition to Organic Program that will turn out New Hampshire’s next organic farmers. And NOFA-NH is an indispensable resource for connecting farmers.”

“People may be surprised to hear how important Local Harvest CSA is to our farmers. It accounts for a steady 20-40% of the yearly income for most of them. When you sign up for Local Harvest CSA, you truly are supporting farms who build and prioritize their growing season around your membership.”

“The future for Local Harvest CSA looks bright,” Dave Trumble says proudly. The considerable time and effort put in by everyone involved is truly worthwhile. Growers spend more time in the fields and with their families. Members benefit from a system that has undergone trial and error, vision and revision.”

Local Harvest CSA, Concord NH | 603-731-5955  | www.localharvestnh.com   |   info@localharvestnh.com

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