Offering a Fruit Share

Fruit shares are the most common additional product that CSAs in NYC distribute other than vegetable shares.  Fruit shares are structured similarly to vegetable shares: members pay up front for a weekly or biweekly share of fruit.  The type of fruit offered in the share varies over the season.  Some CSAs arrange their fruit through the fruit farmer directly, but the majority of groups order through the vegetable farmer who works with neighboring fruit farmer(s). 


It is important for CSA groups and members to understand the challenges of growing fruit organically in the Northeast, particularly tree fruit such as peaches and apples.  As a result of these challenges, none of the tree fruit offered in CSA shares in New York City is organic, but strategies such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) are used.  See below for more information on IPM practices.  Talk with your farmer about how the fruit in your area was grown.   The following are some guidelines for CSA groups who are interested in receiving fruit at their CSA.

Offering a Fruit Share
Fruit shares are similar to a vegetable share, but with fewer items delivered each week. 

Size of the Share:

Farmers tend to deliver 2-4 different types of fruit (a seven-pound maximum) each week.  Early in the season, shares will be smaller due to the high value of fruit available at that time, such as berries or cherries. 

Length of the Season:
Depending on what is locally available, farmers have delivered fruit shares that range from 20-24 weeks.  The season for the fruit share can be shorter than the vegetable share’s delivery.  Many groups have found that members prefer a shorter season rather than receiving too many weeks of apples at the end of the season.

Organization:
Like all additional products, a full share of fruit is delivered weekly while a half share, if offered, is either delivered every other week or delivered as half of a portion every week.  It is important to have an organized system of keeping track of fruit shares.  Core group members should make sure volunteers have the correct week's member list so they can assure members receive their share on the right week. 

What Products Are Included:
The following is a list of fruits that some farms include in a fruit share. 
Included are harvest dates for fruits in New York State according to the Department of Agriculture and Markets.  This will vary depending on your farmer's growing zone , but can be used as a rough guideline.  Remember, not all products will be available from every farm:
Strawberries: June
Cherries, sweet: mid-June – July
Cherries, sour: July
Raspberries: July, September – October
Apricots: July – August
Peaches: mid-July – September
Blueberries: mid-July – October
Apples: mid July – mid-June (fresh from the tree: mid-July – October)
Blackberries: end of July - August
Nectarines: August
Melons: August – September
Plums: mid August - September
Grapes: mid August – October
Pears: mid August – October
Where the product comes from:
Fruit is either provided by the vegetable farmer, or sourced by a neighboring fruit farmer(s) through the vegetable farmer. The vegetable farmer can work with any number of neighboring farms to source products for the CSA, but ideally members would know which farms have provided fruit for their shares.  In the case that the vegetable farmer is not interested in coordinating a fruit share, the community group can work directly with a fruit farmer to receive a fruit share for their CSA.

How It Is Packaged:

Usually, fruit will be delivered in bulk to the CSA and members put together their own shares at distribution.  Some farms will pre-bag their fruit shares.

Growing Practices:
Weather conditions in the Northeast make growing tree fruit organically in large quantities near impossible.  Though local fruit growers are not certified organic, most small, local farmers will follow good growing practices because avoiding the use of pesticides means preserving their farm land and protecting their own family from toxic materials.  The following are two ways CSA farmers can grow their fruit in the North East:
 
Integrated Pest Management
To ensure safe growing practices, farmers use a method called Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  This method is an environmentally sensitive approach to growing fruit that reduces or eliminates the use of pesticides, while at the same time managing pest populations at an acceptable level.  Potential pests that may endanger the fruit are first analyzed; strategies are then decided on the best way to deter these pests from the crop.  Strategies of IPM include using mechanical trapping devices, natural predators (e.g., insects that eat other insects), insect growth regulators, and mating disruption substances (pheromones). Though IPM has no public certification, a farm’s IPM program is closely monitored by an agricultural institution, such as Cornell Cooperative Extension, to ensure the most strategic and least toxic methods are being used.  Many times, however, farms will not become IPM certified because the cost of certification is expensive. 

Low Spray
On occasion, farmers will use the term “Low Spray” when speaking about growing their fruit in the Northeast.  This term has a loose definition.  Some farmers use this term to casually speak about IPM to their customers.  However, the term “Low Spray” can also refer to when growers use a minimum amount of pesticides.  The amount being used and the type of pesticide varies depending on the farmer, there are no guidelines or restrictions with the term “Low Spray”.  It is best to ask your farmer to further explain their growing practices.

 

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