Colchester Farm CSA has ended operations after 15 years of serving Kent County residents locally grown produce. The community supported farm, located near Galena, provided vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits to some 200 shareholders as well as to customers at the Chestertown and Lewes, Delaware farmers markets.
In a letter to shareholders Sept. 17, Colchester board president Marcia Landskroener wrote, “A ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances has compelled the board of directors of Colchester Farm CSA to dissolve the organization at the end of this year.” She said the two key issues were a decision by farm manager Theresa Mycek to pursue other opportunities and a decision by the new farm owner to move his family to the farm.
Landskroener’s letter praised Mycek’s “sheer will and determination” for making Colchester a success despite the hard work and vicissitudes of running an organic farm. She was ”the face of Colchester Farm, staffing our stand at the Chestertown Farmers’ Market with a ready smile and encouragement to try that unusual vegetable.” Landskroener wrote.
Owen McCoy, manager of the Chestertown farmers market, said he heard the property had changed hands about five years ago. The new owner had been willing to allow Colchester to continue farming its portion of the larger property, about 15 acres, but the agreement was on a year-to-year basis. Finally, this year, the owner decided to move his family to one of the buildings on the property, contributing to the termination of the agreement.
As the farm’s website states, Colchester Farm CSA began some 15 years ago, when Charlotte Staelin, who then owned Colchester Farm, and Andy Andrews of the American Farmland Trust spoke casually about how a community supported agriculture project would be great for Kent County. Without much planning, they asked some 29 friends or relatives, to contribute $100 each in return for pesticide-free vegetables, giving them a share of what came up every week all summer long. Colchester Farm Community Supported Agriculture was set up on a 10-acre plot carved out of the larger Colchester Farm.
The operation grew more rapidly than expected, and by 2006 Colchester Farm CSA had a full Board of Directors and began accepting tax-deductible donations for its educational work. Also in that year, Theresa Mycek took over the management of CFCSA from Andy Andrews; and the farm built an unheated greenhouse, to extend its growing season.
With its non-profit status, CFCSA was also able to secure small grants from both the Maryland Environmental Trust and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, one for designing educational materials and one for collecting and printing oral histories of Colchester Farm and its surrounding neighbors in Georgetown. The last several years, CFCSA operated with a staff of one full-time year-round manager and four seasonal interns.
Landskroener, in her letter to sponsors, said the farm would donate its remaining assets to Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, “This non-profit organization is a wonderful resource for young farmers just starting out, providing education, networking, and advocacy to help build a sustainable Chesapeake foodshed,” she wrote. Also, Colchester donated proceeds of its final Oktoberfest, held at the end of September, to the Victory Garden at Chestertown Middle School, Kent County High School’s Culinary Arts Program, and the Sassafras Environmental Education Program.