- Associated Press - Sunday, August 2, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - “You know the worst part about this?” Pam McDevitt joked last Tuesday as she picked up her weekly load of produce. “The pressure to use up all this” - she gestured to the corn and cantaloupes and tomatoes - “before Sunday!”

Really, she was just half joking. She’s had to get creative with her Sunday meals. The other day she used up some peppers by adding them to her corned beef cabbage. Before that, she added zucchini to stuffed peppers - a new recipe that ensured nothing went to waste.

McDevitt, an oncology pharmacist with the CAMC Cancer Center, participates in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program the medical center offers in conjunction with Gritt’s Farm, of Buffalo.

She and 99 other Charleston Area Medical Center employees have ordered varying shares of produce over an 11-week period, which began in late June.

Gritt’s Farm supplies the produce; customers like McDevitt make the pickups. Folks from CAMC and Gritt’s Farm will tell you it’s a mutually beneficial partnership - consumers get healthful, locally grown produce, and the farm gets a more stable revenue stream.

Last Tuesday, Brad Gritt stood in the shade of a pop-up tent directly behind the open double doors of his produce truck parked in the Cancer Center parking lot. Inside, small, medium and large boxes of produce - valued between $10 and $30 per week but selling for less - were stacked up. Around 3:30 p.m., a steady stream of customers started picking them up.

If the weather and the crops cooperate, CSA can be a more stable revenue stream for local farmers like Gritt, whose family has owned and operated Gritt’s Farm since 1927. It’s not like selling stuff at the farmers market, where you predict - hope - customers show up and buy enough of your crop. No, the CSA model relies on a farmer’s knowledge of the growing cycle and projected crop yield to produce an agreed upon amount of food, of which customers pledge in advance to buy shares.

Gritt first encountered CSA in Salt Lake City, where he worked for six months at a bank. He got “farm sick,” as he calls it, and decided to go back to the family business. His marketing and finance coursework at Marshall University gave him some new business ideas, and he convinced his father that CSA could be profitable endeavor. Today, “30 to 35 percent” of Gritt’s Farm’s produce goes to the CSA venture. Gritt credits Buffalo High School’s Future Farmers of America chapter with thinking to approach CAMC regarding a CSA partnership.

Anna Sutton, health and wellness coordinator for CAMC, said the medical center was able to jump on board at the last minute with Gritt’s current 11-week growing cycle.

“It helps local business,” Sutton said, “and encourages healthy eating. And it’s convenient - and that’s a big struggle for folks who try to eat healthy.”

Sutton said the program has been so popular that there’s a waiting list of people wanting in on the action. She hopes the size of the program will double.

“I’ve eaten more vegetables in the past month than I have in my entire life,” Derek Hancock joked as he picked up a box of produce. Then, he grew more serious.

“I’ve lost 5 pounds” in the last two weeks, he said.

“The quality is better. You’re helping people, farmers in your community. And you’re keeping your money closer to home.”


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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