Owner: Dwight Carpenter
Season: Mid May-mid October, 20 weeks
Pick-up: Wednesday and Saturday at Ann Arbor Farmers Market; Thursday at Northville Farmers Market; Saturday at Farmington Farmers Market. Monday at Carpenter’s Greenhouse in Allen, MI
Cost: Full share $340; Half-share $170.
Cost per week: $17/week
Growing practice: Certified organic
Website: at Localharvest.org, have ad
Carpenter’s CSA program is a little bit different from the “subscription” or “shareholder” models of most CSAs; the Carpenter’s CSA is more like “shoppers choice.” When you sign up, they make out a punchcard with your name and 20 weeks on it. You bring the card each week and if you have a full share, you pick out $20 worth of produce from whatever they have that week and that’s your share. If you want only strawberries for the week, you can get it. And if you want more produce for the week, you get a 15% discount on anything else over the $20 share. In addition, you can pick up on a different day whenever you want at any of the markets where they set up. If you go on vacation you don’t lose out, you can just get your card punched later on. And, after your 20 weeks of CSA are finished, you still get the 15% member discount.
Owner Dwight Carpenter says “people absolutely love it. A lot of people don’t like greens or don’t use onions. This way they get just what they want. The reason it works so well for us is because we have 17 acres outside that we garden and then the 1/2 acre in the greenhouse. So we have lots and lots of stuff. I tell people to come in the morning before 11am, because I sell out. But if they call ahead, we’ll put things aside for them.”
The tomato blight during the summer of 2009 was heartbreaking to most farmers, but Carpenter says it turned out to be an exceptionally good year for them. Their tomatoes were protected in their greenhouse. And next year they’re planning to put cucumbers in the greenhouse to protect them against blight too. They also had excellent watermelons and muskmelons. And Carpenter says their onions were huge - close to a pound each.
Carpenter says they had several acres of sweet corn planted this year, but the deer ate it all. So they’re putting up a deer fence. They’re also planting a thousand new raspberry plants and two thousand new strawberry plants. With the half acre greenhouse he’s going to try to start extremely early with tomatoes and cucumbers - after installing a new irrigation system he thinks he may be able to bring his hothouse babies to market as early as the second week in April.
Carpenter is working on extending the season by installing another 3 cold frames for early and late greens. He says he’d like to have lots of different greens available up to December, but it’s very difficult to keep things from freezing once they’re at the open-air Ann Arbor Farmers Market in the coldest weather. He’s definitely not alone when he says “I sure wish they’d put in a covered market.”