By Alicia Dziak
Looking for a better way to eat healthy? Look no further than Native Offerings Farm, which provides seasonal and certified naturally grown produce to its shareholders, for maximum nutrients that won’t break the bank.
Native Offerings is a CSA, which means Community Supported Agriculture, described as a movement that reconnects the community with its food source, the local farmer.
The farm’s owners, Stew and Deb Ritchie, moved to the 180-acre farm, at 8501 Maples Rd. in Little Valley, in 2002, citing on their website that the property’s 15 acres of sandy loam soil, great for vegetable production, and a stream that could be used as irrigation, as major draws.
“We moved to Otto 11 years ago. We bought the farm from Robin Clark. Her husband’s family had owned the land, I believe for five generations. I think that it was known locally as the ‘Clark Farm.’ We started farming in Western New York in 1997 on rented land (Arden Farm, Albert Hubbard’ s farm, owned by Mark and Sara Roelofs), which was located in East Aurora. We were hired by the Roelofs to manage their land and develop markets. We worked for them for a year and then established Buffalo Organics CSA. We operated our own business there for five years. When we moved to this farm, the local food movement was beginning to grow,” said Deb.
“The ‘Native’ in our farm name reflects the local or ‘of this place’ aspect of the word. ‘Offerings’ reflects all of our share programs and also an aspect of our reverence for the land. We are really striving to improve this land and to leave it better than when we started.”
The couple currently farms with their three children and is committed to ecological farming. The farm follows organic standards, which prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. Following these standards assures customers that genetically modified crops and organisms will not end up in their food.
Sounds great so far, right? But just how does a share at Native Offerings Farm work?
First, customers should select the “share” that works for them.
“A CSA share is purchased at the beginning of the season (now actually!). We have three differently sized vegetable shares, so families or individuals can choose a size which will work for their needs,” Deb explained. “The vegetable shares are divided into two seasons: summer and winter. Summer season is from June-October. Winter season is from November-March. We also have a fruit share, which consists of locally purchased fruit from a variety of certified organic, IPM managed and conventional farmers. The fruit share runs during the summer season.”
Once a share is purchased, shareholders come once a week to pick up their share of the produce during the chosen season. Native Offerings conveniently has four distribution locations for their CSA — Orchard Park, Amherst, Buffalo and locally at their farm in Otto.
“We set up our distribution like a farmer’s market,” continued Deb. “Our shareholders read off a board that lists the share quantities for items in the share and collect their share from that list. Unlike other CSAs that give a box to their customers, we do this so that our customers have some choice of what goes into their share. For example a small vegetable share in early July may look like this: three lettuces (head or leaf lettuce), one bunch of chard, one bunch of radishes or scallions, 2 lbs. celeriac or beets, one bunch of parsley or cilantro, two Bok Choi.”
Why consider a CSA share when considering your meal planning?
“The benefits of purchasing from a CSA as opposed to a farmers market or roadside stand is the development of relationships that support the local economy,” said Deb. “CSAs keep agriculture alive and thriving in rural America. The support we get from our shareholders allows us to get all of our income from the farm. When we calculate the price for our share, we target a price that we think is fair to our customers, but also to us in terms of long-term financial sustainability of our farm.
“We are a Certified Naturally Grown farm and use organic production methods for our vegetables. When our customers purchase a share from us, they are making choices about how they spend their money and they know exactly where their food is coming from and how it is produced. At a farmers market or roadside stand (unless there are very specific rules in place for vendors as far as what products they can sell), this layer of transparency may not exist.”
Additionally, Native Offerings also accepts volunteers, providing a great opportunity to learn about the farm.
“Some volunteers in the past have come to learn about organic vegetable growing,” Deb said. “Some people just need the exercise and the connection with the earth that comes from putting their hands into it!”
It’s not too late to purchase a share for this summer, but hurry, because new shares can only be purchased through the end of May. Don’t miss out on your chance to enjoy farm fresh produce all summer long.
For more information, for a variety of recipes, or to register for a share, visit www.nativeofferings.com.