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FARM FRESH: Farms And Families Connect

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Central Iowans looking to get fresh produce from the farm this season may have an easier time thanks to a growing program.

Joining a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, isn’t new. But, the practice of supporting local farms by buying shares at the beginning of the season is becoming more popular.

Stewart Schuman grows fruits and vegetables at The Homestead in Pleasant Hill. He says, "I like hot peppers. I love those things. Those things are good."

Schuman is one of 24 adults with Autism working on the farm at The Homestead's campus in Pleasant Hill. Most of the workers live and work there, planting rows and rows of Certified Naturally Grown food. It's sold in stores around the metro and through a program called Community Supported Agriculture.

Vocational Director Eric Armbrecht says, "Our CSA is one of our main products."

Armbrecht says people who join a CSA buy a share from a farm in the spring for an entire growing season. A share costs $450 at The Homestead. For 20 weeks May through October, you get the fruits of the farm's labor. He says, "Each week a person would get a half bushel box of produce, whatever is in season. In the spring, that's going to be the things that do well in the cold, so things like lettuce, greens, herbs, green onions maybe."

Drake University’s Coordinator of the Greater Des Moines Buy Fresh Buy Local program says central Iowa farmers are planting more shares this year, making it easier for more families to join a CSA. Coordinator Matt Russell says, "We've seen an increase in the number of CSA’s  and some of the established CSA’s have all expanded their shares, so there's a real opportunity this year.”

Russell says about 2,000 CSA shares will be available in central Iowa this year, which is double from a few years ago. He says, "This is a perfect way to connect to eat a wider variety of fruits and vegetables to eat the absolute freshest, most in season vegetables you can get."

Armbrecht says they typically sell 100 shares a season at The Homestead, but they hope to expand this year. He says, "All of the money, revenue produced from the CSA, all of it goes back into our system. In particular here, all of it goes back to our farm, which employs adults with Autism."

CSA shares vary in cost and what the farm grows. Many also offer tours and volunteer opportunities, so you can get your hands dirty helping with the harvest, if you'd like.

You can find more information from the Greater Des Moines Buy Fresh Buy Local.

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