Bridging the upstate-downstate divide with beets

In today's New York Times: A profile of an emerging vegetable venture that links Schoharie County with the South Bronx, a neighborhood the article described as "the poorest congressional district east of the Mississippi."

The project is Corbin Hill Road Farm, a 92-acre vegetable farm in Carlisle that Harlem mathematician Dennis Derryck has pressed into the service of community-supported agriculture in Hunts Point. The concept of CSA farms is nothing new in the five boroughs these days. What's different about Corbin Hill Road Farm's CSA is that it's designed to work in low-income neighborhoods:

In a traditional C.S.A. plan, people pay farmers at the beginning of a season for weekly deliveries of whatever grows on the farm. Last year, 18,000 New Yorkers participated in 80 such plans, according to the advocacy group Just Food. It’s a model that doesn’t translate well to poor neighborhoods, where handing over, say, $500 at one time with the promise that someone will send you a box of flowers, herbs and vegetables you probably don’t want isn’t a popular notion.

So he decided to turn the model on its head, giving plan members a say in what is grown, and, with the help of nonprofit groups, making it less expensive as well.

“Most people I talked with say, ‘Can I get enough food to feed my family,’ ” Mr. Derryck said. “They don’t want parsnips and thyme. They want 10 pounds of potatoes.”

The long-term goal is to transfer ownership of the farm to its South Bronx shareholders. As reporter Kim Severson points out, it's a tough sell in a neighborhood that has seen a lot of well-meaning projects come and go. But if it works, it could be a boon to both its upstate and downstate participants. Commenter Kathleen Leonardo observes on the NYT site:

I wonder if the residents of the Bronx have any idea how much this will help the poor farmers in Scholharie County who are trying to sell their produce at road stands to tourists who visit Upstate NY in the summer?