There are no fruit buds and the peach trees have yet to show a single leaf.
Thayne Tagge, owner of Tagge's Fruit Stand in Perry, is gazing across his barren orchard when his Blackberry beeps with an e-mail notifying him a customer has made a payment.
"Thanks for the payment. Looking forward to sharing the harvest with you," Tagge e-mails back.
Several Northern Utah farmers like Tagge are receiving payments for crops that have not yet sprouted, as a result of a relatively new concept.
"The whole idea is community-supported agriculture," Tagge said. "Right now is the hardest time for me, because we have pretty much run out of money from last year.
"There are a lot of upfront costs that we incur right now. So the whole idea is to get people onboard who are willing to support me. They agree with my practice and really understand what I want to accomplish."
Participants in the state's Community Supported Agriculture program are referred to as shareholders.
"A CSA member has a share in your production," explained Charlie Black, from Black Island Farms in Kaysville, which joined the CSA program last year.
Shareholders purchase a full or half share to be delivered every week to a pick-up location between June and October. At his farm, Black said, a half-share is a half-bushel of any available produce and feeds a family of four, and a full share will feed a family of six. The size of a share differs among farms.
The weekly shares are purchased in a single payment made during the springtime, which gives the farmers revenue when they typically would have none. Each farm sets its own price, but a half-share will be around $250 and a full share runs, on average, $450.
"It's a great way for farmers to reduce their need for operating loans," said Jeff Williams, founder of CSA Utah, a nonprofit organization that helps market local CSA farms.
James Haggerty, owner of Sun River Farm in Mendon, has never taken out a farm loan in his 12-year ownership of his company because of his customers in the CSA program.
"We look at it like we are taking loans out from individual families, and then we pay it back in the form of vegetables," said Haggerty. "The only other alternative, really, is to have more off-season income that takes the farmer away from his task at hand -- which is to grow."
Jeremy East, of East Farms in West Point, said CSA helped keep him in business in the farm's early days.
"We were struggling with finances and produce. The community pays for the spring," said East. Without it, "I wouldn't be growing right now. I'd have to get a real job."
Community-supported agriculture has been a rising trend in the last decade. But it was Jeff Borski who was the trendsetter more than 15 years ago when he purchased his grandmother's house and orchard in Kaysville.
"I actually had the first (CSA) in the state. I started out with about seven members for the first couple of years," said Borski. The Borski farm now has 500 members.
Borski was an artist in New York City when an organic apple in the Big Apple changed his career path.
"It just made me realize .aa.aa. I have to buy my grandmother's farm and I have to be an organic farmer," Borski said.
He learned what a CSA was from a doctor who had moved from the eastern United States, where community agriculture was well-established. Borski, who had been making his revenue from the Salt Lake City farmers market, joined the program.
Haggerty figures he is the second- or third- longest-operating CSA farm in Northern Utah. Sun River Farm joined the shareholder program in 2001. Haggerty estimated that he and Borski were serving 300 families combined when he first started.
"What I understand is that there are probably closer to 3,000 (shareholder) families now with farms in Northern Utah," Haggerty said.
East said Salt Lake City has always had more shareholders -- and a lack of home gardening might be why. Weber and Davis counties still have open land, he said.
There has been an increase in the number of farmers markets across Utah, and the CSA membership base has also risen.
"I would say over the last 10 years, the movement has really grown huge," Haggerty said. "Not just as far as numbers of farms, but just the public awareness of the concept."
Haggerty said the CSA program has also enabled the rebirth of the small family farm. Blue Spring Farm in Tremonton is just a two-person team, with Tamara and Randy Hed.
"It makes it a little easier for small farms because you have a place to sell," Tamara Hed said.
Black said the boom in popularity has come out of an increased focus on supporting local merchants.
"When people support the local farmers, they support open space and preservation," Black said.
The farms determine what is in a weekly delivery by divvying out what is available.
"We tell them upfront what our production will be. It's what is available in this area at that time of the year," said Black, who has a collection of 35 different fruit and vegetable crops.
Some farms grow fruit and vegetables, others grow only vegetables, some grow herbs. The farms list what they plan on growing in the springtime so customers can determine which farm is best for them.
"We put our own variety together on what we hear from the consumers," East noted. "So it's not 18 weeks of zucchini and squash. ... They think it's Christmas every week. We send out recipes with the odd stuff."
It's sort of an adventure for the shareholders, said Tamara Hed: "You don't know what you are going to get."
The variety also works to minimize the risk of having a bad harvest. Cold snaps, bug infestations and weather can affect the products available.
"That's kind of the law of the harvest. There are always things that don't do as well," Tagge said.
Borski usually has a mixture of organic row crops and fresh herbs -- which he touts as adding flavor to food without additional calories -- in every shipment.
The toughest part is getting folks to support local farms and to eat healthier, Borski said.
"It's hard to get some people to realize that they need to eat more vegetables. And if you got them delivered every week, you kind of got to."
HOW IT WORKS
Tonya Ulmer of South Ogden came out of a Wal-Mart to see several people picking up full grocery bags from a produce stand. She was introduced to community-supported agriculture when she asked someone with a bag what was going on.
"I wasn't sure I wanted to spend the money upfront," said Ulmer. "But I called (John Borski) and he told me about his farm and how he farms his fruit and vegetables."
The key for her was that the Kaysville farm uses organic growing methods, plus she gets her produce as fresh as possible.
"I mean, literally, they harvest it in the morning and they bag it up and deliver (that day)," Ulmer said.
Although she doesn't determine the fruits and vegetables in the deliveries, she does get a schedule from Borski Farms on what to expect -- including produce she's never tried, like some unique zucchini types.
The CSA farm helped her find a solution for a common problem in families: how to get the children to eat more fruits and vegetables.
"I can hardly get my kids to eat vegetables," Ulmer said. "But when I put his snap peas in front of my kids, they eat them like they're candy."
* Typical season: Weekly delivery from mid-June through October
* Size of shares: Half-share feeds family of four, full share feeds family of six.
* Average price: Half share, $250. Full share, $450.
* Type of produce: Varies among farms and season.
Local CSA farms
* East Farms, West Point, (801) 525-2219
* Zoe's Garden, Layton, (801) 721-8238
* Black Island Farms, Syracuse, (801) 540-2818
* Sun River Farm, Mendon, (435) 757-7507
* Borski Farms, Kaysville, (801) 941-9620
* Blue Spring Farms, Tremonton, (435) 279-0563
* Tagge's Famous Fruit, Perry, (801) 755-8031
* Tveit Gardens, Nibley, (435) 770-8714
* Bryan Palmer, Wellsville, (435) 245-4579
For more information, visit www.csautah.org.