If you're looking to eat locally grown vegetables, you might consider shopping at a farm that sells weekly shares of its harvested crop. Members of these “community-supported agriculture” programs pay a fee at the beginning of the year for a selection of produce to be picked up each week of the crop season - typically from June through October.

If you're looking to eat locally grown vegetables, you might consider shopping at a farm that sells weekly shares of its harvested crop. Members of these “community-supported agriculture” programs pay a fee at the beginning of the year for a selection of produce to be picked up each week of the crop season - typically from June through October.


“It's appealing to people who are interested in keeping a viable local food economy going,” said Dave Purpura, owner of Plato's Harvest Organic Farm in Middleboro, Mass.


Fees fluctuate from farm to farm: Plato's asks $675 for 20 weeks of vegetables and flowers, while Brookwood Community Farm in Milton, Mass., and Canton, Mass., charges $425 for 20 weeks of vegetables.


Members often split shares with friends or neighbors, Purpura said. Share sizes are determined according to the market value of the produce, said Judy Lieberman, farm manager of Brookwood. 


The kinds of vegetables that are in the weekly shares vary with the months. Members can expect a good variety in each share. Lieberman said members sometimes receive 10 types of produce.


Part of joining a community-supported agriculture program, however, is accepting the risk of a poor season, Lieberman said. If crops are bountiful, the shares will be abundant; if the crops aren't growing, rations could be on the meager side.


Part of eating locally means planning your menus around what produce is available at that time of year, Lieberman said.


It also means being adventurous. Members might find vegetables in their shares they have never tried, like edamame or bok choy, Purpura said. To that end, Brookwood provides members with weekly recipes and cooking instructions.  


In addition to offering fresh vegetables, community-supported farms can also offer a sense of, well, community.


“Some people come, pick up their shares and leave,'' Purpura said. “But we appeal to families who spend some time visiting the animals and picking flowers. There's a social aspect to it.''


Ashlee Fairey may be reached at afairey@ledger.com.