Smiling lady with kid | Dorchester County EDA

The Dorchester Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting at the East New Market Volunteer Fire Department last month was an important reminder of the critical need to preserve and promote the county’s agricultural businesses. Whether protecting local farmers like the Hudson family against capricious lawsuits; patronizing seasonal farmers’ markets; or purchasing a CSA* membership, the evening’s theme — Our Future, Our Farms, Our Food — highlighted the economic, environmental and health imperative of Dorchester’s agriculture industry.

With table decorations of root vegetables, winter wheat and seasonal jams (courtesy of Layton’s Farms and Emily’s Produce) — and a practical reusable grocery bag favor encouraging all to “Keep Calm and Farm On” — the evening was a tribute to the region’s agricultural businesses. Staff from the Economic Development office joined the hundreds of business owners in attendance. We spoke with Kelly Jackson, proprietor of Emily’s Produce, about the upcoming season and got a quick lesson in *Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

As Dorchester’s only CSA, Jackson added the membership-style weekly food cooperative to her established ‘road-side’ produce stand in 2012. After much research and planning, she initially offered two ‘membership’ options: Full Share (26 weeks) and Half Share (13 weeks). This year, she’s added a third, “Fresh Freedom” option to offer increased flexibility.  Each week, customers receive a fresh picked, locally grown or sourced package of fruits, vegetables, flowers, all natural eggs, meat, dairy, and local baked goods. Additional member benefits include a weekly newsletter, recipes and special sales and promotions.

According to Jackson’s website, CSAs assure customers they are consistently receiving fresh picked local produce, hand picked for quality, peak ripeness and flavor. The consumer member provides a pre-season investment to purchase a “share” of their local farmer’s upcoming fruit and vegetable harvest, and the farmer provides a guarantee that the consumer will receive a weekly box of premium “picks of the patch.”

Emily’s Produce CSA memberships are being accepted until April 1. At only $23 a week, a full-share membership is $598 and half-share $299. To learn more about this farming cooperative or to sign up for 2013, visit www.EmilysProduce.com.