Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture

Our desire to eat local and seasonal food is growing across this country. Over the past two decades, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for tens of thousands of eaters to buy local, seasonal food directly from thousands of farmers. Our close farmer friend runs one in Virginia, our landlord participated in one in Brooklyn, and some of our neighbors here have joined a CSA.

Us Longhaulers have yet to be the eaters involved in a CSA, but we are hoping to be the farmers.

The basic gist of a CSA is that farms offer "shares" or memberships to the public. These shares provide up-front money in the springtime when farmers typically need it the most. In return for their investment, eaters receive farm products, usually a weekly box of freshly harvested vegetables between the months of June and December. This partnership is positive for both parties, for many reasons.

Personally, I enjoy the community and health aspects of a CSA. We have an opportunity to get to know the people who make or eat their food. CSA pick-ups create a time and space for fellow members to meet each other, maybe even harvest something together. Also, you can feel connected to the food you put in your body, knowing exactly the kinds of farming practices your farmer uses. A weekly box of freshness encourages consumption of fruits and vegetables and even inspires someone to cook up that rutabaga or rhubarb they've always been wary of.

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So while we were in Argentina, enjoying a long winter on Chacra Millalen, we wrote our Farm Plan. It is a manifesto of 100+ pages, packed with our own ideas and our efforts to boil down the wisdom we learned from our farmer friends and from great and practical agricultural thinkers and doers. We made the conscious decision to hold off on our CSA until year 2 of our farm. Even though this 1st year requires the biggest capital layout, we were skeptical of our virgin soil. We wanted to get as much going as we could without promising too much... we didn't want to disappoint our partners or neighbors. 

So I flipped through the Farm Plan just this morning. Sitting there on page 24 in our Future Directions section, (along with Learning Center, Policy & Advocacy and Catering), we wrote: "Our CSA program will serve 10-15 families. We hope to have a CSA model where upper income families help subsidize lower income families' participation." This is a core tenet in our model for farm sustainability, and it addresses my two favorite concepts of community and health. The Hunger Action Network provides profiles on many CSAs in New York State that share our values of equity. These amazing farms have implemented some great programs: donating produce to soup kitchens and food pantries, offering revolving loan funds or sliding scale share prices for low-income persons to be able to join the CSA, and accepting food stamps and WIC. We look up to these farms and are excited to join the food justice movement with them.

1 comment:

  1. I wish we could be one of the first 10 families! Keep up the updating, can't wait to see what's happened when we come in July!