Share what's fresh with Pinckney's Produce, a local CSA program from Rest Park Farm

By Cindy Reid |  I am a “wishful thinking” vegetable gardener. Every year I mull over colorful and enticing seed packets, letting imagination overtake reality and experience. I am the kind of gardener who wishes she could grow a rotating crop of fresh beautiful vegetables. But alas, I am the kind of gardener who grows tomatoes that are decimated by weird black rot, corn that starts out oh-so-promising but ends up stunted burnt stalks, and squash that never moves past the blossom stage.

So what’s a hapless vegetable gardener to do?

Easy, join our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program “Pinckney’s Produce”, which is produced by our own local Rest Park Farm in Seabrook. It is very simple. All you do is pay a reasonable fee up front in exchange for 12 weeks of fresh vegetables. The vegetables are boxed up and delivered to a convenient location once a week for the 12 weeks period. On your area’s delivery day you swing by and pick up your box of goodies. That’s all there is to it.

There are four different size shares, from small to extra large, and each is priced accordingly. For instance, a Medium Share is considered ideal for two people and costs $276 for the 12 weeks. That breaks down to $23 a week. (To put that in perspective, I estimate that planting my own vegetable garden at home costs a conservative $200, which puts the handful of edible produce we harvest at about $45 per tomato.) Every week’s box contains whatever has been picked in the last 24 hours and the wonderful, fresh content varies week to week.

Here in the Lowcountry there are two growing seasons, and for the CSA there are two seasonal harvests, Spring/Summer and Fall. You can join either or both harvest programs. The fall harvest starts in about two weeks and the produce of course varies between the seasons. The sheer variety grown out at Rest Park Farm is amazing. They grow everything including carrots, onions, potatoes, kale, spinach, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet corn, watermelon, rutabagas, turnips and much much more! You will receive in your weekly share box whatever is being picked right then. Not what was picked and packed last month in a state or country far, far away.

No, these vegetables are grown right here, in Seabrook in fact.  They’re picked and delivered to your area within 24 hours of leaving the ground! Honestly, you cannot get food any fresher short of growing it yourself. (And we all know how that can go…)

But there is more to it than getting a good value for your grocery money. Prepaying for your share helps the farmer by providing some capital towards their cost and ensures a market for their crops. This concept has real meaning if you care about keeping what few family farms we have left in business. Farming ain’t easy, or particularly profitable. It is a labor of love, love of the land, love of fresh and healthy food and for Rest Park Farm, a love of family tradition.

Urbie West and his son Ashby are the fifth and sixth generation of Rest Park Farm farmers. Urbie’s great-great grandfather founded W.H. McLeod & Son at Seabrook in 1884 in Seabrook, SC. The farm kept going for one hundred years until it shut down in 1984. But in the spring of 2012 Urbie and Ashby brought back the family business and they have been working hard ever since. In addition to being the providers of Pinckney’s Produce CSA, they sell fresh vegetables to local restaurants (Bricks on Boundary and Breakwater to name two), at the Port Royal Farmers Market and to wholesale markets. That is a lot of back breaking, dawn to dark work for just two men and a handful of seasonal employees. As I say, a labor of love.

There aren’t a whole lot of local ways of life that are still around, every year there are less shrimpers, less basket weavers, less people who know how to plant 30 year old heirloom seed and actually grow a crop ( which the West’s just did with broccoli rabe!) and every year we bemoan this fact. Well, the CSA program gives us a way to make a difference in our community, and a positive difference in our quality of life. Sure it may be slightly easier to run in the chain food store and grab some cellophane wrapped squash and spongy cucumbers, but really is that what we want to feed ourselves and our kids? Or is it just as convenient to pay for a season’s worth of vegetables up front, and have the pleasure of picking up our share?

I know I will continue to plant my garden, as no one is as hopeful (or possibly deluded) as the amateur gardener, but Kip and I will buy a Pinckney’s Produce share for the fall harvest. I hope we see you at the weekly pickup spot!

For more information, and to purchase YOUR share, go to their most-excellent website