Salem - Four 20-something friends who love to eat and cook have found a way to nurture their passion for food: They have started a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm.
Tessa Moeckel, Levi Buckingham and husband and wife Matthew Stevens and Zoe Ward last fall started to prep an acre of land on the Teel family farm on Norwich Road. Buckingham's relatives gave them use of the land.
The way a CSA works is that a farmer offers a number of shares to the public. The consumer buys a share and then each week picks up a variety of vegetables in season, typically from June to October. A share costs $550 a season, and each weekly pickup should be enough to feed a family of four for the week.
"We hope to provide people with a variety of vegetables that will change the way they eat and think about food," said Ward. They plan to produce peppers, tomatoes, basil, bok choy, leeks and microgreens, among other varieties, all grown naturally without the use of pesticides.
The four have invested $13,000 of their own money to get the venture started and are hoping to break even this year.
They decided on the name Frim Fram Farm. The name sounded "cool" to them but also turned out to be a phrase made famous in a song, "Frim Fram Sauce," by the Nat King Cole Trio.
They used shovels and their bare hands to build raised beds to grow their vegetables. An irrigation system waters their crops and an electric fence helps keep animals away.
"We couldn't do it without this model," said Buckingham. "You're buying into the risk, but you are also buying into the bounty."
The risk is that the crops won't thrive and those with shares wouldn't get much food. But Buckingham said the CSA model is more responsive to the consumer, and a farmer will grow more or less of a crop depending on demand.
Moeckel also said what makes a CSA different is the interaction that a consumer has with the person who grows the food.
"You can't go into a grocery store and ask how the vegetables were grown or what are the best ways to use it," Moeckel said.
"For us, it's all about the interaction we have with the people who have a shared stake with us in the venture," she said.
Moeckel said the CSA also updates its shareholders on the progress of the crops on their blog, at frimframfarm.wordpress.com.
Despite the risks, James Robson said he bought a share because he likes to support local growers. Plus, the quality of the vegetables surpasses anything found at grocery stores.
"It's a risk I was willing to take," Robson said. "It's worth the cost if you think about the fresh ... vegetables you are going to bring to the table."
"It's the happiest I have ever been," Stevens said. "We are our own bosses. There is something special about the fact that the amount of work you put in is what you get back."
Ward added, "I've worked several managerial jobs and had tons of back pain. Working at the farm has been a lot of hard work, but I haven't had nearly as much pain. You are working the body the way it's supposed to."
All shares have been spoken for, but extra produce will be available at a farm stand between 4 and 7 p.m. Saturdays at 26 New London Road.