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There's no disputing that whiling away a couple of hours browsing the offerings at your local farmer's market is a pleasant way to pass the time. These markets offer all kinds of wonderful locally-grown organic vegetable options for your dining pleasure.

But maybe the farmer's market isn't an occasional thing for you. Maybe you and your family are devoted to the idea of not only eating locally grown food, but also playing a part in the actual farming process.

That's where farm shares come in.

Farm shares are an example of what is known as Community Sustained Agriculture or CSA. It's pretty simple, really. Essentially, what you do is pay upfront for a steady stream of vegetables throughout the growing season. Your advance payment helps finance the expensive initial stages of the farming process; in return, you get a 'share' of the farm's output.

This is mutually beneficial; the farmer has an easier time getting things started while the customer receives a season-long supply of vegetables that has been gathered for them. Win-win. Some organizations including the Brewer-based Food AND Medicine even offer work share programs, where volunteers can receive a farm share by actually working at the farm for a set number of hours per week.

Not all farms are alike, of course. You'll want to do some research into which farm share will work best for you. Each place operates on its own schedule. Each farm has its own price rates, although just about all of them offer the option of buying a half-share as well as a full share.

The best way to find out more about farm shares is to talk to the farmers themselves. You can find them at any farmer's market you choose. If past personal experience is any indication, these folks will be more than happy to tell you more about what they do and how they do it.

Of course, you might not have time for that. If that's the case, your best bet is probably a visit to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) website mofga.net. MOFGA was founded in 1971 and is the oldest (not to mention largest) state organic organization in the country. At mofga.net, you can find a directory that lists CSA farms and farmers by county. No matter where you live in Maine, you can find yourself a farm share; there are over a dozen listings for Penobscot County alone.

Unfortunately, the enrollment deadline for many 2012 farm sharing programs has passed. However, there are farms that offer other options for latecomers. You'll never know unless you ask. And even if it's too late for this season, there's no reason not to prepare for 2013.

Even if the world ends, we're still going to need our vegetables.

More in this category: « The next 10 Local Dish »

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