Williston farm looks for community support

Boutin Farm first in Williston to offer CSA program

March 27, 2008

By Tim Simard
Observer staff

Lisa Boutin had something of an epiphany while working several farmers' markets last summer with her husband, Kevin. So many people enjoyed their fresh vegetables and berries, why not have more community members actually become part of the farm?

"We had so much fun at the farmers' markets meeting so many new people," said Boutin, the co-owner of Boutin Family Farm. "It's great to be part of something the community can really get behind."

The Boutins also set up a makeshift farm stand at the farm's location on the corner of South Road and Christmas Lane. Many locals stopped to buy vegetables at the farm stand, Boutin noticed, and the idea of becoming more community driven grew increasingly attractive.

"We thought it would be great to have people come to our farm and be part of a community," said Boutin, who also works as a teacher's aide at Allen Brook School.

The Boutins decided to turn their small farm into Williston's first Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, program, which allows people to buy so-called "shares" in the farm before the growing season and then get bags of vegetables throughout the summer and early fall. The upfront money allows farms to cover early operating costs and focus on planting and growing for "shareholders," Boutin said.

The CSA concept has existed for more than 20 years in Vermont, but has gained in popularity recently as people have become more concerned about where their food is coming from, said Jean Hamilton, the farm share coordinator for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont.

"It's an investment in the whole season and allows for a sense of community to form," she said.

Hamilton said there are 13 CSA farms in Chittenden County and 67 statewide. One of those in Chittenden County is Goose Creek Farm in St. George, started by Lisa and Greg Beliveau 15 years ago. Goose Creek and Boutin Family Farm offer the only CSA programs in their respective towns.

"Right from the start, we've had a lot of members," Lisa Beliveau said, estimating the farm currently has 30 to 40 shareholders.

Goose Creek is located right off Route 2A with a permanent farm stand in the summer on the road. The farm has 4,000 square feet of greenhouses and more than eight acres designated organic certified.

Boutin spoke with Beliveau when developing the Boutin Family Farm CSA approach, even modeling her share program after Goose Creek's.

Beliveau told Boutin to be aware of how much customers will get per share. She stressed not to give too much so as not to waste vegetables.

"It's a way to get people connected to their food source," Beliveau said. "It doesn't matter how you buy locally, just that you do buy locally."

How it works

At Boutin Family Farm, customers will be able to pick up their vegetables once a week for 12 weeks. Boutin said   a full share, for $325, should feed a family of four for a week. A half share, for $225, should feed two adults for a week, but Boutin warned what feeds a family of four may only feed two vegetarians. The costs are cheaper if customers sign up before June 1.

In addition to the CSA program, the Boutins have instituted a debit share program where individuals can pay $100 or more up front and shop the farm stand until the money runs out. Anyone participating in that program will get 10 percent off vegetables.

Vegetables will vary throughout summer and fall. Vegetables including lettuce, scallions and summer squash will be available in the early season; carrots, tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, corn, onions and broccoli during mid-season; eggplant, sweet peppers, pumpkins and winter squash in the late season.

Boutin said customers would be able to pick up their shares on Mondays or Thursdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

So far, the farm has seven members signed up. Boutin still plans to publicize the CSA program.

Boutin Family

The Boutin family has been farming in Williston for more than three generations. Much of the family continues to live around the rolling hills and patchwork fields of southern Williston.

"Everyone is very close with each other in this family," Lisa Boutin said. "We're pretty active with what's going with each other."

The Boutins will continue to sell at farmers' markets in the summer, including two in Williston and one in Richmond.

"People I've spoken with have become really excited about having a local CSA around," Boutin said. "Having someone local producing your food is something I think the whole community can get behind."

For more information or to sign up for a CSA, contact Boutin Family Farm at 734-8406 and Goose Creek Farm at 482-3404.