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ARC&D organizes region’s first CSA Fair at Johnson City's Willow Tree Coffeehouse on Feb. 6

Contributed To The Press • Jan 29, 2016 at 9:36 PM

This year, when Serenity Knoll Farm Manager Camille Cody began to organize her Community Supported Agriculture share, she made plans to promote it at the region’s first CSA Fair.

“I’ve never heard of an event like this,” said Cody. “I’ve been a part of CSAs in the past, but a CSA Fair is new to me. I hope it helps fill some CSA shares at Serenity Knoll.”

Serenity Knoll is planning to make 20 shares available through its CSA.

“There are a variety of options to choose from,” Cody said. “There’s a full-size and half-size share, flower-bouquet share and a market share. We will be growing many vegetables all the way from arugula to zucchini. We will also have herbs, both medicinal and edible.”

Information like this about other CSAs in the area will be available at the CSA Fair, which is being organized by the Appalachian Resource Conservation & Development Council. Through the fair, ARC&D Local Food Promotion Coordinator Lexy Close hopes to bring consumers and farmers closer together as well as educate the public about local food options in the area.

“Basically, a CSA is a vegetable-subscription program,” Cody said. “It helps establish a relationship with local food consumers and the local farmers.”

A CSA is essentially a subscription to the farm. Members pay to the farmer up front at the beginning of the year and then receive weekly or monthly boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables grown by the farm. Farms benefit, because they get funds when they need it most: for buying seeds, fertilizer and repairing equipment. Customers benefit because they get high-quality produce at a big discount.

Close realized that there are about a dozen farms in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia that offer CSAs of some kind.

“I'm always looking for ways to raise public awareness of local food and the wonderful farmers we have in our region,” Close said. “I think there's a lot of consumer education that needs to happen around what is a CSA. So this event is in part about educating people around options for consuming local food and trying to increase the customer base for these small family farms.”

Close is still recruiting CSAs to join the event by inviting farmers to set up a display table.

“I’m hoping for at least 5 farms at each of the two events,” she said. “Attendees will be able to check out all their options for CSAs. It will be majority produce farms, but we'll also have options for CSAs of locally raised meats, eggs, baked goods, and even flowers. We'll also have stations to keep kids entertained. We'll have seed sprouting stations, arts and crafts, information about pollinators and other helpful bugs. There will also be a photo booth so the whole family can dress up like farmers and take home a picture.”

The first CSA Fair will be held in Johnson City at Willow Tree Coffeehouse and Music Room from 1-4 p.m. on Feb. 6. The second CSA Fair will be in Bristol at the Slater Community Center from 1-4 p.m. on March 5.

Any CSAs wishing to participate may contact Close at [email protected]

Since 1994, the Appalachian RC&D Council has worked to conserve natural resources and improve rural economies through community leadership and enhanced educational opportunities. More information about our projects and a calendar of events can be found at our website ARCD.org or by calling 423-979-2581.

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