Binghamton University community members can purchase local produce from Russell Farms through the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share program.
Partnered since 2022, BU’s Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI) and Russell Farms CSA have collaborated to deliver fresh local produce directly to campus. Every Wednesday, CSA providers bring share boxes with crops grown by local farmers that can be pre-ordered online on the Russell Farms website. Those looking to purchase shares can subscribe to a season program and get 10 weekly share boxes with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Delivery trucks stop in front of the East Gym Co-Rec Center, where customers can pick up their orders and buy additional shares.
Johann Fiore-Conte, the associate vice president for student affairs and chief health and wellness officer, explained the community benefits of running the CSA farm share program.
“[BU] has been involved in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program since 2019,” Fiore-Conte wrote in an email. “This model helps provide area farmers economic security while giving our campus community access to locally grown, freshly harvested produce. It is a mutually beneficial, direct relationship between the grower and the consumer. We thought it [would be] natural to offer this resource on campus for many reasons. It helps our campus community have access to a diverse range of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and supports local agriculture with a direct connection to the farm.”
The farm share program began as a summer-only offering and was later expanded to fall programs after engagement and satisfaction from students and staff. There have been between 50 to 70 participants subscribed to the season program and those not subscribed can buy single shares on the trucks.
Daniel Barclay, a CSA manager on campus who helps hand out shares, explained more about the products.
“Usually, we give [eight] to 10 items in a share with cold crops like cauliflowers, broccoli, red apples, red beets, corns [and] brussel sprouts,” Barclay said. “We try to bring local crops in New York [state] and Pennsylvania. We also try to bring stuff you won’t see in an everyday grocery store. [There is also an] option for a snack mix or flower … the price of share boxes ranges from $10 to $30 … most of the stuff we bring here, we know who grew it as we bring directly from them.”
Kristen Loutensock, a lecturer in the Cinema Department, shared her experience with the program.
“Wherever I have lived, I have tried to join CSAs,” Loutensock said. “I really believe in the value of local produce that is not shipped or grown in a great house. The [farm share] offer has been a benefit to the employees like me with convenient pick-ups on campus.”
BU’s HCI, the main organizer for the farm share program, aims to develop and sustain a culture of support for health and well-being initiatives in the university. On Nov. 17, they are launching mental health first aid training for students, in which students will be first-aid certified to recognize, respond and refer to those in emotional distress. Next March, they also plan to partner with BU Dining Services to bring back the annual Health Fair that was canceled due to COVID-19.
Roy Jacobson, a junior majoring in environmental science, said the farm share products were affordable for students.
“I started using [farm share] this September after I saw a poster of it in one of the science buildings,” Jacobson said. “I have really enjoyed it. It is super convenient being on campus and a lot of products are relatively cheaper than other grocery stores. The fact that it is local makes it better for me.”