Consumer Supported Agriculture:
A perfect Partnership for Growers and Consumers
By Laurie Wink
It’s no secret that the pleasure of eating is heightened when the food comes fresh from the farm. Those of us living along The Beach Coast are blessed to be at the epicenter of one of the world’s most fertile areas for fruit and vegetable production. Our nutrient-rich soils and Lake Michigan micro-climate are ideal for creating first-class ingredients for the finest cuisine.
As people recognize and celebrate the superior taste of food grown in our region, the farm-to-table movement has gained traction. One manifestation is the myriad opportunities to get involved in CSA – consumer supported agriculture. In exchange for a flat fee, CSA members get a weekly box of just-picked produce from their partner farm throughout the growing season.
Larry Zimmer and Ted Perzanowski, of Duneland Beach, are among about 100 CSA members who enthusiastically support Iron Creek Farm, a certified organic operation owned by Tamera and Patrick Mark. Zimmer enjoys seeing firsthand where his food emerges from the earth and talking with the Marks about their approach to agriculture. He eagerly makes the trip to the farm to pick up food boxes for his own and four other households. “The food tastes better,” Zimmer says. “Everybody agrees the quality is far superior.”
CSAers appreciate the environmental and economic benefits as much as the food quality. They want to know that the food they eat is grown in a way that’s good for the planet. Organic farmers use far less fuel to grow food without chemicals and transport it to nearby consumers than do traditional farmers, who rely on heavy doses of fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals to produce food on large tracts of land and ship it long distances to grocery stores.
Both Tamera and Patrick Mark are life-long farmers and their 83-acre Iron Creek Farm -- located between La Porte, Michigan City and New Buffalo -- has been in the Mark family for more than 100 years. Adult daughters Brittney, Kaela and Aryn are the sixth generation working the rich, black muck soil of their ancestors.
Ten years ago, they opted to become certified organic growers. Iron Creek Farm yields an impressive variety of vegetables -- from asparagus to zucchini – and some fruit. The Mark family strives to improve the quality of soil and water and provide a haven for wildlife.
“By following our organic practices, we feel that we are not only being good stewards of the land,” Tamera says, “we are also protecting and caring for the health of our family and yours.”
CSA membership fees help kick-start the business early in the growing season and give the Marks a built-in customer base. “We like knowing that, even before we grow, the food has a home to go to,” Tamera says. “And knowing that we’re going to see them (members) every week holds us to a certain standard. We want to give them the best product we can produce for them.”
Tamera says all Iron Creek Farm members get the cream of the crop. Although their city members may be unable to visit the farm, she tells them about what’s happening and talks about the food she delivers each week.
Michiana Food Scene
Opportunities to participate in the expanding local food movement in Northern Indiana and Southwest Michigan are provided in Edible Michiana, a quarterly culinary magazine featuring stories of local restaurants, farmers, chefs, vineyards and artisan foods in Michiana. You can get an insider’s look at the local food scene at Garden to Table, a blog about living simply and eating well written by New Buffalo resident Paula Bartholome.
Laurie Wink is a journalist and freelance writer who has lived in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. She enjoys every opportunity to eat good food with friends and family who live in all three states.