Penn's Corner Farm Alliance
412-586-7577 or www.pennscorner.com
When Penn's Corner Farm Alliance started in 1999, it was a loose cooperative of Southwestern Pennsylvania farmers who sold their produce to restaurants. Together, they ran their own community-supported agriculture program, or CSA.
But over the past five years, the CSA has taken off. In addition to providing locally grown produce and goods to area restaurants, it now offers the same goods to individual households.
Farm-share members sign up to get a weekly box of produce for a season, available for pickup at various locations. Three options are available: the "farmer's friend" share, which costs $770 for a full 32-week season, running from mid-April to mid-November; the "cabin fever" share for the first eight weeks of spring; or the "harvest" share, which is 24 weeks from mid-June to mid-November.
"One of the benefits is the food is just incredibly wholesome and nutritious and fresh," says CSA manager Karlin Lamberto. "It's a better-quality product, and it's a nice way to be a part of the community and support the community around you."
The CSA, Lamberto notes, keeps money in the local economy. The 30-some farmers that participate in Penn's Corner are all from Southwestern Pennsylvania. Kananga Farm in Ligonier, for example, provides heirloom beef products; Clarion River Organics in Sligo offers organic produce; and Pucker Brush Farm in Shelocta specializes in organic veggies.
Participating in a farm share also provides a chance to try something new and in-season. Boxes in April, for example, may come with items like green onions, spearmint and green garlic; boxes in September may feature tomatillos, leeks and eggplant. "If you have a box of produce you've already paid for," Lamberto says, "you're more compelled to try these things." The regular farm offerings are also occasionally supplemented with items like eggs, honey, homemade pastas and cheese.
Sign-up for the 2011 season begins in January, and the boxes are available for weekly pick-up in locations as far north as Ross, and as far south as Mount Lebanon and Whitehall. Lamberto says that an expansive distribution network is a sign of growth.
"Five years ago, we had a few handfuls of boxes. Now we have three dozen pick-up locations."