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What makes a home-cooked breakfast on the North Shore extra special? When it is an omelet cooked with freshly laid eggs, instead of supermarket eggs, and spinach grown in a local zip code. Imagine enjoying this meal along with a vase of colorful, recently cut flowers without having to do any of the farming work. The answer is a membership in one of the more than twenty Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs on the North Shore. 

There is an abundance of farms and food producers in the North Shore region that allow consumers to both enjoy locally sourced food and experience the farm where their food is grown. A major benefit of CSA farming is the consumer’s positive impact on both the local economy and the environment. According to a 2021 study in the Journal of Sustainability, half of the vegetables sold in the United States are from California farms and are transported at an environmental cost. Vegetable production on local, commercial, and home-based gardens was associated with much lower negative environmental consequences. 

Ramblin Roots co-owners Graham Bell and Donna Diamond

Wenham-based Ramblin Roots Farm CSA grew out of the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project four years ago. Co-owners Graham Ball and Donna Diamond are guided by their own past CSA experiences. “Freezing part of your share yields amazing results when you pull out really high-quality red bell peppers from the summer in the middle of winter and have fantastic vegetables that you are cooking with,” says Ball. 

Long Hill Orchard & Farm CSA in West Newbury occupies 150 acres and was established in 1896. Cindy Adams, Long Hill’s owner since 1990, enjoys seeing returning CSA members each year, and watching their children grow up. Marini Farm CSA in Ipswich is a third-generation family business that began in 1928 and offers long-standing annual events such as Christmas on the Hill. 

While each CSA farm has its own spin, there is a standard model. When you sign on to be a CSA member, you are buying a share of the farm’s harvest for the upcoming season for a preset, upfront cost. The amount you pay is determined by the size of your share, which varies in amount to feed a single and/or couple or an entire family. The number of weekly pickups range from a summer season to farms that extend into late fall and winter shares.

Each week members’ shares include freshly picked seasonal vegetables and, depending on the CSA, can also include locally sourced eggs, fruits, and flowers. The North Shore is also home to CSA farms that either specialize in or can add on (for an additional fee) items such as locally sourced flowers, dairy, meats, mushrooms, and seafood. 

Produce from Long Hill Farm

Most members travel to the farm for an on-site pickup of their shares, which comes with the benefit of choosing their produce from a market-style setup and taking advantage of a swap table. “For example, you can pick the exact beet you want and trade in a jalapeño pepper for an extra zucchini,” says Ball.

Long Hill members can become farmers by participating in the pick-your-own cherry tomatoes, herbs, and flowers as a bonus to their shares. Ready for a cool break after picking? You can enjoy a treat at Long Hill’s Big Scoop ice cream stand and visit its petting zoo. The other option that some farms, such as Ramblin Roots and Long Hill, provide is the convenience of preboxed pickups at local stores and farmers markets.

According to Marini Farm owner, Mike Marini, “Becoming a CSA member is a win-win because farmers receive the upfront money to invest in that season’s equipment and growing supplies, and members receive a 20 percent savings on average per season. I make sure to keep the value each week, by adding items such as baked goods, eggs, and pumpkins in the early and late weeks.”

The CSA farm experience does not end with your share pickup. Both Long Hill and Marini offer farm stands to purchase additional produce, locally sourced food products, and fresh baked goods. Marini Farm expanded to include a family-run bakery in 2015, and sometimes includes cider donuts in its weekly shares. 

Ramblin Roots

As the weather cools, Marini Farm gears up for festivities such as the themed Marini Corn Maze and Play Area featuring Doggy Maze Daze and the adults-only Wine Your Way Out evenings, and trick-or-treat hayrides. Long Hill offers CSA members a holiday discount when the farm fills up with 20-plus varieties of pies and other treats, holiday décor and flowers, and Christmas greenery and trees. 

You never know what your weekly share will bring, whether a chance to try kohlrabi, pop a bright red cherry tomato straight from the vine into your mouth, share a recipe with another member, or even pet a goat.  

Ramblin Roots Market Garden, 78 Larch Row, Wenham,
Marini Farm, 259 Linebrook Rd., Ipswich,
Long Hill Orchard and Farm, 520 Main Street, West Newbury,