Gator CSA program returns for third year

By on October 18th, 2012

For the third year in a row, once a week, two locations on the University of Florida campus will transform into local food markets.

The 2012-2013 season of the Gator Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program starts Thursday, Oct. 18.

Frog Song Organics, The Family Garden Organic Farm, Graham Farms, Henderson and Daughter and Swallowtail Farm are offering CSAs through the program. All of them operate within 250 miles of Gainesville, according to the UF Office of Sustainability.

Community Supported Agriculture programs are a partnership between consumers and farmers. Consumers buy membership into the farm and then receive a share of fresh, local food products directly from the farmer each week.

Membership is usually paid in full at the beginning of a growing season. Costs vary depending on the farm and share size. Mike Amish, program assistant at the UF Office of Sustainability, said that although consumers usually pay more money up front, in the long run, they will save money.

Amish said the farms were required to use organic growing standards in order to participate in the Gator CSA program. Frog Song Organics, owned by Amy Van Scoik and her husband, John Bitter, is certified organic.

“I think having that third-party verification, it allows people to have a little bit more trust in the product that they are buying,” she said.

This is the first season Frog Song Organics is offering their produce through the on-campus CSA program. The husband and wife team both graduated from UF. She said they are excited to reconnect with the campus community and to get faculty and students connected with what’s going on outside of campus.

“For me, getting people excited about eating local and eating organic, I really love that,”  she said.

Van Scoik said students can benefit from participating in the Gator CSA program because they can pick up their share on campus, they can learn how to cook new recipes with vegetables and they can learn which types of crops grow in Florida.

Van Scoik said while joining a CSA is a good way to support a local farm, it’s not always ideal. She said CSAs are ideal for consumers who have a consistent schedule and who cook at home frequently.

“It’s a very different eating experience,” she said. “Like if you’re painting, you have a bunch of colors. You have to be able to be a little more creative.”

Pick-ups are every Thursday between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. on campus at two locations — the parking lot at Bledsoe Drive and the Academic Research Building breezeway off Center Drive.

The 2012-2013 season will run from mid-October to June, depending on the farm.

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