Just Roots talks farm shares, safety changes during virtual orientation

  • Just Roots in Greenfield offered a virtual CSA orientation called “Meet Your Farmers” last week, attracting about 30 participants. Staff File Photo/Dan Little

Staff Writer
Published: 6/8/2020 4:04:23 PM

Although public gatherings remain limited, that didn’t stop Just Roots community farm in Greenfield from sharing what they have to offer with area members during a virtual CSA orientation.

The program, called “Meet Your Farmers,” was held on May 27 using the Zoom video conferencing platform. Nearly 30 participants signed on to learn about Just Roots’ farm shares and how services are changing this year in consideration of the current public health crisis.

Meryl LaTronica, director of farm operations, described farm shares (called CSAs, which stands for community-supported agriculture) as a “subscription to vegetables,” whereby a customer makes a commitment to pay for fresh produce upfront or throughout the 20-week season. CSAs reassure farmers, LaTronica said, as they then don’t need to worry about attracting customers, and can instead focus on growing produce.

Buying CSAs also helps to reduce carbon emissions by minimizing food transportation. Though the average meal travels 1,200 miles to get from a farm to a customer’s plate, LaTronica said, food bought in a CSA program might travel only a quarter of a mile or across town, depending on where the customer lives.

“The other reward is the joy of the relationships we get to build with each other,” she said, noting the connectivity between customers and the people who grow their food. “That connection is a very special thing.”

To keep customers safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be some changes on the Greenfield farm this year. LaTronica said customers will be required to wear masks when picking up their CSAs and there will be a limit on the number of people allowed in the market area. Children are still welcome.

“I think the difference you’ll see is a little more waiting in line than there once was,” she said of the limit on customers shopping at once.

Those venturing to the pick-your-own garden must bring their own scissors, and there will be a hand-washing station. Additionally, food demonstrations are not happening, although Just Roots continues to share at least two recipes each week, according to Community Engagement Coordinator Jansyn Thaw.

For residents who are opting not to leave their homes to purchase CSAs, LaTronica said Just Roots offers a delivery program. Another option for customers who want to skip the lines involves picking up pre-made CSA boxes.

“Obviously, that limits your choices to just take that box on the run,” noted Associate Director Rochelle Bellin.

During the question-and-answer session at the end of the virtual meeting, viewers pitched ideas for increasing safety, such as providing customers with tongs when they’re collecting greens. They also proposed offering online farm tours and gardening hack videos to keep the community engaged.

As a result of the economic impact the pandemic has had on Franklin County, Just Roots Executive Director Jessica O’Neill said the farm anticipates having a greater number of customers who need the reduced price CSA program, and has solicited more donations from the community to subsidize costs.

O’Neill said Just Roots hopes to offer 235 farm shares this year. Programming and Marketing Coordinator Alden Hollow described the different varieties of summer CSAs: a full share, where customers can get nine items per week (standard price is $800); a small share, with six items per week (standard price is $605); and an extended share, which adds two extra pickups in November and December.

CSA customers also have several options for picking up their food, Hollow explained. They can get it at the farm at 34 Glenbrook Drive on Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Leyden Woods from 11 a.m. to noon on Thursdays, at Oak Courts from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays, and in front of the Community Health Center of Franklin County on Main Street on Thursdays from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

To view the “Meet Your Farmers” virtual CSA orientation, visit bit.ly/2XmaSgw. For more information, visit justroots.org.

Reach Shelby Ashline at 413-772-0261, ext. 270 or sashline@recorder.com.


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