Kohlrabi in your stocking? Maybe next year.

The city of Belfast and Maine Farmland Trust are hoping to give community-supported agriculture programs a boost using the old Christmas club savings account idea, enlisting four banks with branches in Waldo County to offer savings accounts specifically for CSAs.

Typically, CSAs require a large initial payment to the farm at the beginning of the growing season. In exchange, the customer receives a box with a variety of fresh, seasonal produce every week.

“For us, it’s almost like a start up loan,” said Christa Bahner of Bahner Farm in Belmont, one of 26 farms in Waldo County that have CSA programs. “They count on us to pay them back in vegetables.”

Bahner, who operates the farm with her husband Mike and two employees, said she often hears from people who want to join the CSA but can’t come up with the large initial payment — around $300 for an individual or $500 for a family at Bahner Farm.

“It would be nice to say, ‘Here’s an option where you can pay a little bit at a time,” she said.

Bahner Farm has roughly 30 people participating in its CSA program, including one new customer this year in Belfast City Manager Joe Slocum and Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge, who split a share to find out what CSAs were all about.

As Slocum tells it, he had heard of community-supported agriculture but didn’t know of farms that offered it or people who used the programs. His assistant Jennika Lundy, who Slocum credited Thursday with orchestrating much of the new program, had been using the Bahner Farm CSA and Slocum and Kittredge decided to give it a try.

Aside from some squabbles over who got how much lettuce in the summer months, Slocum said the experience was great and led him to eat more vegetables, including some he was unfamiliar with — it’s often a mystery what will be in any given week’s box, but whether it’s bok choy or delicata squash, CSA devotees often embrace the challenge of figuring out the new flavors.

His next idea was: wouldn’t it be great if, like the old Christmas clubs, people could put aside a little money each week or month to save for a CSA?

Bangor Savings, Camden National, Damariscotta and Key Banks have all agreed to offer version of a CSA savings account. Based on descriptions from bank officials present at a press conference Thursday, Oct. 13, these fell into one of two categories: term savings accounts like a Christmas or travel savings club, which offers a higher interest rate based on a guaranteed term; and regular savings accounts, sometimes requiring a minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee.

As with most kinds of accounts, the option would exist to schedule automatic transfers from a checking account each week or month. Some of the banks said they would send a cashier’s check to the farm at the account holder’s request. Others would leave it up to the account holder to withdraw the money and get it to the farmer.

The goal of the new CSA savings accounts, according to Rep. Erin Herbig, D-Belfast, who works as outreach coordinator for Maine Farmland Trust, is for Waldo County to have the largest number of CSAs of any county in Maine.

Herbig’s colleague, MFT Executive Director John Piotti, expressed optimism that the goal could be reached, calling the new program a “natural next step bridging the business community, buyers and farmers.” People opening CSA accounts would also get a free membership to MFT, he said.

Mayor Walter Ash, who was among a number of city officials on hand for the press conference Thursday, voiced his support for the new program, saying he was “tickled to death” that the banks were involved, and strongly in support of programs to support local farmers.

“Just look at the news any time,” he said. “Fresh, local produce is the way to go in Maine.”