by Charles Cassady
“CSA” is an acronym worth getting to know – and taste. It stands for “community supported agriculture” and represents a modern movement to bring local food shopping and provisioning back to small, independent, local family farms.
In Independence, a CSA partnership has been established with Grace Brothers Nursery in North Royalton. Shoppers may reserve organic, locally grown produce farmed throughout the summer and early fall and reap the benefits on a weekly basis.
Grace Brothers acts as both a provider and a sort of waystation for 20 Ohio farms and orchards within a 70-mile radius. The result is a cornucopia: peas, zucchini, squash, heirloom tomatoes, cauliflower, kohlrabi, beets, berries, onions, lettuce, eggs, melons, potatoes, eggs, pears, apples (and apple cider) and much more are available for seasonal once-a-week pickup.
“The Grace Brothers CSA began in North Royalton in 2012,” said Nicole Snyder, a manager at the farm. “… Owners Don and Kevin Grace wanted to bring more local produce into their community.”
After nine years of the program running in North Royalton, the farm was approached by its first outside client for the CSA initiative, Amanda Jaronowski, a lifelong Independence resident and a career specialist for Independence Local Schools.
“I have personally participated in various CSA organizations for years, with varying levels of success,” she said. “The main issue has always been transportation – participating in a weekly CSA that is located 45 minutes away is not going to be very ‘user friendly.'”
The Grace Brothers operation had proven itself in its hometown, and Independence was not far away. “The choice was clear,” said Jaronowski. “Approach a reputable farm-to-table operation that already exists, and form a symbiotic relationship.”
As part of the arrangement inaugurated last year, Independence advertises the Grace Brothers’ project to residents and allows the use of the Independence Middle School parking lot as the site for subscribers to claim the bounty.
“Our first year [with Independence] worked out well for our farmers and dinner tables alike, and we are excited to be doing it again in 2022,” said Snyder.
It is not limited to Independence or North Royalton dwellers, either. “Anyone can sign up to be a part of the program at one of our two pick-up locations, Independence Middle School or Grace Brothers Nursery,” said Snyder.
“Our busy parents and residents are probably not going to drive many miles to a farm, every single week – but they also see the value in fresh weekly produce,” said Jaronowski. “Having it brought directly to our doorstep was the perfect solution. Thus, the partnership was born.
“Through this program, we’ve been able to overcome the logistical hurdle while continuing to keep ‘supporting small.'”
Grace Brothers Nursery & Supply can be reached at 440-237-2577. To get involved with the North Royalton-Independence CSA, visit shopgracebros.com/community-supported-agriculture-summer.
The website provides the application form, which includes a $100 deposit required to start the process, a calendar of produce availability, and more.
Said Jaronowski, “The element of surprise every week – you never know exactly what will be in your share – is very fun and exciting, especially for the kids. It encourages them to experiment with their diet and try new fruits and veggies.
“The reviews from last year’s program were incredibly positive. I know that this year, things will only continue to grow and improve. There is truly no downside.” ∞