Local co-op shares vegetables and herbs of an organic farm

Once a week during growing season, Andrea Kepic receives an email celebrating the harvest of vegetables and herbs — such as "sweet and delicious" tomatoes; Boothby Blonde cucumbers; and opal basil.

As a member of the Wilton/Norwalk Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, Ms. Kepic is notified about the produce available to her from Stoneledge Organic Farm during the 24-week season.

"The cost of a CSA share is $497, and the amount of weekly produce is estimated to feed a family of four," said Ms. Kepic, who has been a member for five years. "There are two in my family, and there are always leftovers ... The value is fantastic."

There is also the benefit of the locally grown, organic produce. "I joined because I wanted to find locally sourced, fresh produce that is not sprayed with pesticides and trucked all over the country," she said. "It is also a way to support local farmers and the community."

An optional fruit share is available in addition to the vegetable share, including blueberries, peaches, apricots, plums, pears and apples.

Stoneledge Farm is a 200-acre, certified organic farm in the foothills of the northern Catskills in South Cairo, N.Y., according to its website. "The farm has been supplying produce to CSA groups for 20 years in New York City and other areas," said Ms. Kepic. Recently, Stoneledge Farm has been making inroads with CSA groups in Connecticut and Westchester County, she said.

Community-supported agriculture originated in the early 1960s in Germany, Switzerland and Japan out of concerns about food safety and to provide assistance to local farmers, according to Wikipedia.

The Wilton/Norwalk CSA began seven years ago and has more than 100 members, she said. The group is administered by Ms. Kepic, Lorraine Larkin and Joyce Kadan and "is run entirely by our members," Ms. Kepic said.

The Stoneledge Farms produce is delivered each Wednesday to the Villa Notre Dame at 345 Belden Hill Road, where CSA members may pick up their shares.

"The School Sisters of Notre Dame are CSA members, and they also are our hosts," Ms. Kepic said.

CSA members must also work as volunteers at the Villa Notre Dame pick-up site twice during the season for two shifts of approximately 75 to 90 minutes. "This volunteer commitment is an important and integral part of the CSA," said Ms. Kepic.

Leftovers are donated to Person to Person in Darien, a community agency that provides basic goods to those in need, including emergency food and clothing.

Ms. Kepic said members share recipes and also attend the annual Stoneledge Farm Festival in September, a day "of fellowship with the farmers and other CSA members."

However, Ms. Kepic said inherent risks are involved in becoming a CSA member, since the farm is at the mercy of Mother Nature.

"Last August, when Tropical Storm Irene struck, it destroyed the farm and there was no produce after week 12 ... It was eye-opening, how delicate the balance of nature can be."

The CSA members banded together and some sent their membership fee for 2012 in early to help with the rebuilding of the farm, Ms. Kepic said.

So what is her favorite Stoneledge Farm vegetable?

"The cherry tomatoes," Ms. Kepic said. "They are outrageously good. They didn't even make it home. I ate them in the car."

To be placed on the list for the 2013 season, contact info@stoneledgefarmny.org, or visit stoneledgefarmny.com.