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Photos courtesy of Hellgate CSA
Photos courtesy of Hellgate CSA
Hellgate CSA provides fresh produce and other food items to Astoria residents.

Astoria residents who are looking to stock their kitchens with fruits, vegetables and other items grown locally have to look no further than the Hellgate Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

The CSA, which runs out of Astoria First Presbyterian Church’s Broom Tree Garden at 27-20 Ditmars Blvd., has provided residents with fresh produce and other pantry items since 2005. Previously called the Ravenswood CSA, Americorp volunteer Cara Fraver started the organization to give city residents access to organic produce.

The vegetable season runs from June 5 through Dec. 11 while the fruit season runs from June through November. Members pay in advance to receive their shares.

According to coordinator Denise Bolognino, the items come from a variety of farms. Green Thumb Farm, which is located in Water Mill, Long Island, supplies the vegetables. The Raymond Halsey family has been farming the land since the mid-1600s. The farm is also a leader in the organic movement, becoming a certified organic farm in the 1980s.

They grow a large variety of vegetables including asparagus, carrots, beans, beets, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuces, onions, tomatoes and more. Green Thumb Farm also grows some fruits and flowers. Hellgate CSA will invite farmers to the church before every season to meet CSA members.

“It’s important for people to have a source of food they can feel connected to,” Bolognino said. 

Green Thumb Farm

Green Thumb Farm

Hepworth Farms, which was established in 1818 in Milton, New York, supplies the CSA with fruits. According to Bolognino, farmer Amy Hepworth is a “pioneer in the sustainable agriculture movement.”

In addition to fruit and vegetable shares, members can opt in for an herb share, flower share, plum tomato share and more.

Those looking for meat, poultry and dairy items can sign up to receive them from Lewis Waite Farm. The farm, which is located in Jackson, New York raises cattle and pigs but also acts as a retailer to help other local farms sell their products.

Members will receive pasture-raised meat and poultry, fresh eggs and bread, grass fed butter, yogurt and ice cream, artisan cheese from sheep, goat or cows’ milk, organic flour, natural jams and chutneys and more. Non-members can place orders for a la carte items from the farm.

“People join because they want the food. It tastes good, it’s healthy,” she said. “[But] you are [also] directly supporting the family farm staying on the farm. This land is not being developed. You’re getting to be part of the community [and] you are making a real contribution.”

CSA 2

Tortilleria Nix Tamal, a restaurant at 104-05 47th Ave. in Corona, provides a tortilla and salsa share. They make tortillas in the traditional method using ground corn soaked in lime. Members also receive a salsa roja or salsa verde with their tortillas each week. 

Members must volunteer to work at the CSA for one or two shifts. Bolognino said the organization could not survive without the volunteers, who help set up when the deliveries come in on Tuesdays.

“These are all people in your community, possibly your neighbor,” she said. “You’re spending three hours with [your neighbors] helping to make this happen and you’re getting to know people.”

Hellgate CSA offers subsidized shares and a payment plan for members in an effort to make sure their system is equitable, she said. Any leftover shares are donated to Hour Children, a food pantry in Long Island City.

The deadline to apply for a membership is mid-May and those who are interested can sign up on the wait list here. Once chosen, you will receive an email confirming your membership. Shares can be picked up every Tuesday at Astoria First Presbyterian Church.

For a full list of offerings, visit Hellgate CSA’s website.

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