Dave Ambrose of Warren thinks it's illogical to import apples from Chile when they're locally grown.
"The waste of transporting food is a concern for me," Ambrose said.
Ambrose became interested in community supported agriculture, or CSA, by reading about locally grown food. Last year, he bought a half-share of vegetables from New Wilmington Graziers and Gardeners and plans to do the same this year. He will also subscribe to a share's worth of vegetables from Red Basket Farms, another local CSA.
Photos special to the Tribune Chronicle
These photos provided by Dave Ambrose of Warren show some of the bounty from his involvement last season in community supported agriculture.
Ambrose is one of many local residents who have decided to get their veggies from local farmers. While some, like Ambrose, pay to receive a weekly box of produce from farmers, others have elected to participate in community gardens. Those involved list added health benefits and fueling the local economy as their main reasons for promoting local sustainable agriculture.
For Ambrose, the difference between locally grown produce and produce grown abroad also comes down to taste.
Vegetables grown abroad are bred for transport rather than taste, Ambrose said, while local produce is often of an heirloom variety. For example, tomatoes in the winter don't taste as good as tomatoes in the summer do, he said.
Take a look
There will be a plant sale April 25 at the Fairgreen neighborhood garden in Youngstown.
"It's a quality issue," he said.
Like Ambrose, Melissa Miller of Kinsman also made the switch to locally grown food. Though Miller's family farms, they just raise livestock and decided to subscribe to a CSA. Miller said it was a great experience.
"It was delicious, it was fresh, it kept for a really long time," she said of the food.
Her CSA subscription also helped Miller introduce new vegetables into her family's diet.
"It made us try things that we normally never would have tried," she said.
Miller now often makes kale chips from the vegetables in her share, putting olive oil on kale and then baking it to a crisp.
"I can't make enough for my family," she said.
Last year, Miller's family coordinated a CSA for a group of farmers, New Wilmington Graziers and Gardeners. Miller and her family provided marketing and also a drop-off location for the food. They sold 17 shares. Last year, four farmers supplied produce, and this year two will, Miller said.
Unlike grocery store selection, however, CSA shares are seasonal, something that Miller said is difficult for people to understand.
"You don't get watermelon in the spring," she said.
CSAs start sometime in May and continue for 20-25 weeks, ending around Oct. 1, Miller said. Vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, radishes, carrots, and rhubarb are typically available early in the season. Tomatoes and corn are usually available in August.
Most CSAs provide at least six to eight different kinds of items, Miller said. A full share will generally feed four or more people, while a half-share will feed two people. Some local CSAs will also offer fruit, meat or canning.
CSAs typically strive toward being organic, Miller said. She also outlined other benefits.
Subscribers know their farmers and know how the produce is grown.
"Your food has a face," she said.
Last year, subscribers and farmers from the New Wilmington Graziers and Gardeners held a potluck dinner, Miller said. People brought different dishes that they made using produce from their shares.
Though CSAs started decades ago along the coast, they have been introduced locally more recently, Miller said.
Elsa Higby, executive director of Grow Youngstown, came to the area three years ago and couldn't find community supported agriculture. Through networking with local farmers, she was able to use Grow Youngstown to provide marketing for three CSAs.
"It keeps local food dollars in the region," she said of the practice.
While the farmers aren't certified organic, they use sustainable production methods, Higby said. This practice could lower the chances of allergic reactions to foods, which are sometimes caused by pesticides, she said.
Now the locally produced food could become more accessible.
In conjunction with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, Grow Youngstown is purchasing food directly from farmers to sell at subsidized rates to residents of inner city neighborhoods with limited grocery and transportation access, Higby said. There will be drop-off locations in Youngstown and Warren.
Others have also noticed an upswing in the popularity of CSAs.
About four or five years ago, Floyd Davis considered starting a CSA, but determined that there wasn't enough of a following yet in the area. Now though, things have changed.
"There's been a growing awareness," said Davis, of Kinsman.
Last summer, Davis started his CSA, Red Basket Farms, through Grow Youngstown.
In addition to providing others with fresh produce, since he started the CSA, Davis also has benefited. The revenue allows for some cash flow at the beginning of the season and also helps with expenses, Davis said. This year he has close to 70 different varieties of vegetables.
Davis gives credit to active members of the community for helping to spread the word about Red Basket Farms. Last year, 11 families participated, and Blue Iris Cafe in downtown Warren even bought a share, he said. He's looking to expand production this year.
Eventually, he wants to use greenhouses to produce food, which would extend CSA production to about 10 months, Davis said. Right now, his production is about a 20-week period, extending from about mid-June to the third week of October, depending on weather.
Shelley Taylor of Warren subscribed last year to Red Basket Farms, and said she never got bored with the veggies in her share.
"Floyd gave us a great variety," she said.
Taylor, who will also participate in the CSA this year, said her family learned to base meals around vegetables, using smaller meat portions. They continued the practice even into the winter, when they stopped receiving their veggie shares.
In addition to the fact that the veggies are fresh, Taylor also said she likes the idea of supporting local produce.
While it may be easier or cheaper to go to a chain store, people forget that there are farmers in this area, Taylor said.
"This is one of our friends and our neighbors," Taylor said of Davis.
In addition to participating in the Red Basket Farms CSA, Taylor has become involved in another facet of locally grown food production, Garden Resources of Warren. G.R.O.W., a non-profit led by executive director Rodney Hathhorn, has garden spots in a variety of places around Warren. Taylor's family will have their own plot at the Garfield site this year.
Though her family could grow food in their own yard, Taylor said she likes the sense of community that the public gardening creates.
"I'm really excited about this," she said.
Hathhorn also has been preparing, filling out two greenhouses with 25,000 to 30,000 plants. After May, he'll transport the plants outside. Hathhorn is using nearly 11 acres for gardening through an agreement with G.R.O.W. and the Warren City School District, which is letting him use parcels of land until they are sold.
Hathhorn said he looks at the city's shrinking size as an opportunity.
"All of a sudden we have arable land," he said.
Though G.R.O.W. has a core group of volunteers, more people are becoming aware of the program, Hathhorn said.
For him, the draw of locally produced, community-farmed food is simple.
"You can walk out of your back door and then take things into your kitchen and cook them. It doesn't get any easier than that," he said.