The inaugural Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program has allowed community members this summer the opportunity to access fresh grown produce weekly from the Community Garden at Auburn University.
According to Marley Halter, manager of the Community Garden at Auburn University, this first season has included 10 participants with plans to expand the program with more participants next year.
“I am also hoping to expand this program to other specialty/seasonal baskets of fresh produce,” Halter said. “Like a Thanksgiving Basket, Fourth of July Basket, Easter Basket, etc. that will be a one-time pick up with limited availability.”
According to Halter, the CSA program began to further engage the community, make money for the garden and to support their outreach and education programs.
Into its second season, and similar to the CSA program, the Concierge Gardening program fosters relationships between local restaurants and the Community Garden. This summer, the garden has partnered with Lucy’s, a local restaurant, to provide an assortment of produce including carrots, specialty peppers, summer squash and a variety of edible flowers.
“The Concierge Gardening program is such a great new way for us to connect with the public by providing hyper-local and delicious vegetables to their favorite restaurants,” Halter said. “I’ve learned so much about seasonal eating, building a seasonal menu and the importance of supporting our local restaurants.”
Additionally, the Community Garden and any participating restaurants will cross promote one another through social media which is a win-win for both groups, Halter said.
The summer season for both programs began in June and runs through August. The Concierge Gardening program has two additional growing seasons, the fall and spring.
Because the Community Garden is open to local community members, about 90% of the garden is rented plots and produce grown by renters. Produce for the CSA, Concierge Gardening and donation programs are grown by Halter and community garden student workers.
“The Concierge Gardening program pushes myself and the chefs I work with to think outside the box and to figure out where the overlaps are in what we can grow seasonally and what they can use on their menu,” Halter said.
Because of both programs, Halter said she has grown as a gardener and as a garden manager. She is also appreciative of the opportunities that have allowed her to expand community outreach.
“The CSA program has been so much fun because it’s a chance for me to experiment with growing new types of produce I’ve never grown before,” Halter said. “The CSA members get a huge variety of vegetables each week.”