Catskill farmers are reimagining CSA model

ContributedWalter Riesen and Tianna Kennedy are shown at Star Route Farm in Charlotteville. They were founders of the 607 CSA.

 A network of Catskills-based farms is reimagining the traditional Community Supported Agriculture model of local food production and distribution.

CSAs are the small farms’ answer to an industry increasingly dominated by consolidation and corporatization. Members share benefits and take on the risks associated with agriculture — severe weather, disease and low yield — allowing small farms to maintain their operations without scaling up to match their corporate competitors.

“It’s not a food subscription, it’s not a tech startup. You’re literally investing in these farms,” said Tianna Kennedy, owner of Star Route Farm in Charlotteville and a founding partner of the 607 CSA. “You’re supporting the local farm economy in a real way, not just as a consumer.”

Purchasing shares acts as a front-end investment in the growing season in exchange for a regular supply of locally produced foods, but for Kennedy, the model serves a larger purpose.

“It’s about the connections,” she said. “It’s really a community-building effort.”

Now approaching its fifth season, the 607 CSA has grown from four farms to 17, providing seasonal produce, meats and dairy products to more than 150 members in the 607 area code. Instead of selling shares individually, the 607 CSA’s partner farms merged their assets and expanded their horizons, from the northern Catskills to New York City.

Kennedy described the approach as an “economy of collaboration.”

Unlike traditional CSAs, the 607 CSA brings produce to its members, delivering to eight pickup locations in Otsego and Delaware counties, she said. Available in weekly and biweekly deliveries, the program offers flexible options for members, including the ability to transfer or split shares between roommates, family and friends, and the ability to purchase additional shares or add-ons like eggs and chicken.

“It’s fun to involve everybody in the food supply chain,” Kennedy said. “You can be in your own town and have 17 farms at your fingertips.”

Registration for the upcoming season is due by May 15. For more information or to register, visit the607csa.com.

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.