Jan 22, 2014 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
On any given day during the planting season, a person driving down East Lake Road in Cazenovia may see Matt Volz, or his partner Gillian Goldberg, out in the fields driving a horse-drawn plow. Occasionally, Volz, dressed for the weather and dirty from work, may be standing on the stopped plow, while the horses patiently wait, as he talks or texts on his iPhone.
This juxtaposition of tradition and technology, of old and new, is the essence of Greyrock Farm’s Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) program: a year-round offering to members of not just seasonal vegetables, but also grass-fed beef and lamb, pastured pork and chicken — all of which are raised, slaughtered and processed on-site — as well as eggs from pastured laying hens and raw milk.
“For us, we try our hardest to have more [offerings each week] than our CSA members can ever possibly eat,” Volz said. “Any extra we can sell to restaurants or give to a food bank.”
CSA programs have been a popular way for more than 25 years for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. In a typical program, a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public, which usually consist of a box of vegetables, although other farm products also may be included. Consumers purchase a share through a membership or subscription and in return receive a selection of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.
For farmers, CSAs allow them to market directly to customers, to realize income earlier in the season rather than having to wait for the harvest to be completed and to get to personally know their customers. For consumers, they not only get fresh foods straight from the farm, but they become exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking and also get to see where the food is grown or raised and meet the farmer who grew and raised it all.
The Greyrock Farm CSA started in 2010 when Volz returned to Cazenovia after years away, bringing with him one cow and a plan to create a year-round CSA program in his hometown. He met Kaye Osborne, owner of the 270-acre Greyrock Farm at 6100 East Lake Road, and began leasing 50 acres of the land from her. By the following year, Volz had the CSA up and running, and had 24 members.
The Greyrock Farm CSA program is a bit different that most traditional CSAs — instead of seasonal it is year-round, members choose what they want each week rather than take pre-packaged shares and rather than offering only vegetables there is also meat, eggs and raw milk. Greyrock also has its own farmstand building to which members come every Thursday — and the general public can come every Friday — to select their weekly groceries.
“We like the people at Greyrock a lot … their product is superior to an grocery store, plus we know what we’re getting, we know it’s organic, we know it’s fresh and we get to pick what we want and not be handed a bag,” said Cazenovia village resident David Katleski, whose family has been a member of the Greyrock CSA for the past three years. “We like the variety and value, and it feels good to support local farmers.”
Katleski, founder and owner of Empire Brewing Co., which is currently in the process of creating a farmstead brewery in Cazenovia, also uses Greyrock products at his Armory Square restaurant and in his Empire beer. He said Greyrock grows a Thai basil for Empire’s Golden Dragon Belgian-style summer brew.
“We get our meat, vegetables, milk and eggs from Greyrock as members of the CSA,” said neighbor Judy Gianforte. “I like the distribution method, where each member can choose their specific items each week to make up their share. This means that I can load up on the family favorites and also explore new tastes or meat cuts. The member pickup is also a wonderful time to trade cooking ideas and recipes, or to ask the Greyrock crew any questions about their growing practices.”
Gianforte is not only a customer, however, she also sells whole grain from her Gianforte Farm to Volz, which he uses to feed his pigs and chickens.
“As a farmer, I also see that the CSA model is a great way for non-farmers to better understand the practice of growing food with all its challenges, pitfalls and delights. Greyrock does an excellent job of this education piece, communicating with their members so that they feel somewhat a part of the food-growing team,” Gianforte said.
This is part of the reason Greyrock Farm has its own farmstand building on the farm. “We wanted people to come here … see the farm, talk with us, see the animals,” Volz said. Also, it allows them to sell fresh, raw milk, which, under state law, can only be sold on a farm’s premises.
So why does Volz use draft horses to plow the Greyrock fields? Personal preference and an environmental ethic not to use fossil fuels on the farm.
“Horses force you to work at a slower pace, and you have to lay out the fields a bit differently,” Volz said. “You can only do one row at a time. It’s intensive. But it’s great, and I think it does have an effect on quality.”
Volz is proud of the quality of his farm, which is one reason his animals are raised, slaughtered and processed on-site by Greyrock’s butcher Sam Ehrenfeld. One of Greyrock’s most popular offerings is the breakfast sausage made with their own meat and farm-grown herbs and spices, Volz said. People also like some of their “experimental” crops that are “fun to grow,” such as last year’s pan di zucchero — a bitter green Italian chickory plant that can be stored throughout the winter, he said.
In its three years of existence, Greyrock Farm has increased in production and tripled in membership, and recently began accepting members for its 2014-15 season. People can sign up from January through March; pick-ups begin on June 5 and occur every Thursday at the farm. Potential members must submit a check for 40 percent of their total share price to reserve a share, and the total cost is generally split over four payments. There are various share options from which to choose.
The cost for the vegetable portion of the Greyrock Farm CSA is $1,300 per adult individual (so a family with two adults would cost $2,600), but every week members may take home with them as much food as they can eat, Volz said. Milk, eggs and meat are offered through a purchased point system.
For more information about Greyrock Farm and its CSA program and public Friday Farmstand, visit greyrockfarmcsa.com or contact Matt Volz at 484-888-6254 or email@example.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.