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Cleveland Community Supported Agriculture Does the Growing For You 

In the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Spice Acres (9557 Riverview Rd., spiceacres.com) is waking up as they prepare for their farm share season, which kicks off June 13. Andrea Heim, farm manager, has known founder chef Ben Bebenroth since 2012, when Spice first established a small suburban garden in Broadview Heights, totaling 10,000 square feet.

Fast-forward five years and they've upgraded to planting over 13 acres as a part of the National Park Countryside Conservancy program. Spice Acres is one of 11 farms that are a part of a leasing program intended to conserve land through sustainable farming. They join the Trapp Family Farm (1019 W. Streetsboro Rd., 330-657-2844) and Goatsfeather Point Farm (4570 Akron Peninsula Rd., 330-815-0408) in servicing the immediate area.

Talk about a commitment: "We're on a 48-year lease," says Heim. "Occasionally they'll have a farm open and people can submit to get that farm. It's a crazy application; you really have to know what you're doing. There was a farmer here who wanted to get out of it and Ben was in the right place at the right time."

A CSA, or community supported agriculture, comes in many shapes and sizes, Heim explains. "CSA has a lot of different connotations to it. People think that they're getting a part of everything on the farm, but when you have other revenue streams you're selling to, some people have a really hard time understanding why they aren't getting everything we offer."

Spice Acres provides farm products not only for its 50 farm shares and roadside stand, but it also is the main supplier for Spice Kitchen + Bar (5800 Detroit Ave., 216-961-9637, spicekitchenandbar.com) and Spice Catering Co.

You may not get a piece of every bumper crop Heim and her staff grows, but subscribers do get 22 weeks of fresh produce with four to five items per week, a dozen eggs every other week, fresh cut flowers, and weekly recipes from Spice chefs. For those who did not make it into the program this year, drive by during the week and grab eggs by the dozen or heads of fresh lettuce in addition to heirloom tomatoes, zucchini and fresh cut flowers.

The produce grown on the farm finds its way into Spice's kitchen in a variety of ways, most recently via kale and rhubarb in a lentil salad, served with pork tenderloin and an apple ramp mostarda. Asparagus, wine cap mushrooms, and pickled fennel make their way into a vegetarian couscous with charred rhubarb yogurt and cucumber broth, livening up the flavors of early spring.

Spice Acre's farm share differs from Fresh Fork (3800 Woodland Ave., 800-861-8582), another well-known local CSA, in a couple of ways. The duration of the program is the same, but they offer two sizes of shares and have a separate winter share program as well. Fresh Fork also includes meats like poultry and chorizo if you join as an omnivore. While Spice Acres raises pigs on the property, they only sell pork to their restaurant. Fresh Fork founder Trevor Clatterbuck established the 3,000 member buying club in 2007, and it has since grown into a network of over 100 farms in a 75-mile radius who supply the CSA with produce.

New this year, you can purchase Fresh Fork produce at Ohio City Provisions (3208 Lorain Ave., 216-465-2762, ohiocityprovisions.com). Shopping at Fresh Fork's truck is limited to members, but you can join at any time during the season. Northeast Ohio's fertile soils offer a plethora of options, so this summer spare your seedlings and subscribe to a local CSA for your produce needs instead.

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