If you’ve always done your best to dodge invitations to go in on a share (aka, subscription) to a CSA farm (community-supported agriculture), this might be the year you change your mind. For many people, the lure of fresh fruits and veggies delivered weekly by a local farmer to a central neighborhood pick-up point just doesn’t suit their lifestyle.
Now that grocery shopping involves serious planning and hazmat gear, CSAs are suddenly more appealing.
There is another reason to go the CSA route: many of those small farms sell much of their produce to restaurants. With so many eateries closed, those small farmers need you if they are to survive.
Normally this time of the year is too late to become a new CSA subscriber, but times are different. You may be able to secure a share or split one with a neighbor. A handy resource is LocalHarvest.org where you can use the CSA finder at the top of their page.1 Another resource is Our Harvest, an online site with the tagline: Where farmers market meets online grocery. Here is a link to their resources.
For total newbies to the CSA world, Local Harvest explains these basics: “a farmer offers a certain number of ‘shares’ to the public. Typically, the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a ‘membership’ or a ‘subscription’) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.” 1
One of the more interesting aspects of being a CSA member is you don’t always know what will be in your box, depending on what is ready to harvest on the farm each week. I’ve had fun researching what to do with veggies like bok choy that I found to be amazing but had never tried before. You may even find specialty CSAs that offer baked goods and meats.
The New York Times reports that farms are quickly “adopting direct distribution models for local, seasonal foods in a time of crisis.” 2 The report profiled one small farm in Fresno that normally sells to restaurants and at farmers’ markets is now offering prepaid CSA boxes that are helping to “make up for the farm’s lost business, and get home cooks what they urgently need.” In that example a box priced at $40 brings broccoli, bok choy, garlic, mustard greens, fennel and more. 2
Some farms are partnering with delivery services to bring the food directly to their new customers. A quick online search might help you identify new services popping up in your area.
Organizations like Future Harvest the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture are ramping up guidance for farmers in how to communicate their COVID-19 safety protocols to customers and have built an online Market Directory Map as well as hosting a teleconference for farmers about the safety protocols. 3
You can watch the entire Future Harvest teleconference with 250 farmers below.
In the video, Dena Leibman, Executive Director of Future Harvest opens with this observation, “People are facing empty grocery store shelves and people don’t even want to walk into grocery stores just now so we’re hearing from our farmers…that consumers are turning in droves to local farmers for safe fresh food. This means we farmers have to hustle and we have to adapt to meet this demand in safe ways and with abundant supply. It is just becoming so clear that this pandemic is nothing short of a blaring wake-up call. The security of our region hinges now and always on a safe steady regional food supply. We cannot depend on a global supply chain so vulnerable to disruptions like this pandemic and the trade wars. This is a moment we must seize to win the hearts and minds of consumers and policymakers to drive home the critical role our community plays in feeding our people.” 4
One farmer participating in the call, Beckie Gurley of Calvert’s Gift Farm in Montgomery County Maryland, said to her peers, “Now is our chance to shine, so don’t screw it up…don’t whine because nobody likes a whiny farmer. Let’s go forward because there’s a huge opportunity here.” 5
Food & Wine recently profiled ways in which farmers are developing alternate income streams as their restaurant clients temporarily close. That article quoted Sarah Brown, owner of Diggin’ Roots Farm in Oregon who offered these words of encouragement as farmers scramble to connect with new customers who are suddenly interested in CSAs:
“It is really exciting, and the local food community is heartened and encouraged and inspired by this interest…It’s hard to think long-term right now because we are in the middle of this crisis, but there is a real desire and hope to think strategically, maintain this interest beyond this crisis, and use it as an opportunity to change our food systems.” 6
By R.A. Kroft
1Local Harvest. Find a Local CSA. https://www.localharvest.org/csa/
2Rao, Tejal. As Supermarkets Feel Hazardous and Sparse, Small Farms Deliver. New York Times. 3 April 2020.
3Future Harvest CASA. COVID-19 Resources for Farmers. March 2020.
4VIDEO: Future Harvest. Future Harvest COVID-19 Discussion 3/25/20.
5Short, Michael. Delmarva Farmers Continue to Provide Local Food. Lancaster Farming. 3 April 2020.
6Gershenson, Gabriella. As Restaurants Close, Farmers Find New Ways to Feed People. Food & Wine. 6 April 2020.
R.A. Kroft writes about her day-to-day journey in living a smaller, more sustainable life and other topics that interest her.
This Site Was Inspired By An Interest in Protecting the Environment:
We had the privilege and joy of learning from Dr. Charlie Stine who instilled a love for the natural world through incredible field trips with the Johns Hopkins Odyssey Certificate program in Environmental Studies. At the time, the program was endorsed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Sadly, after Dr. Stine retired, the program was phased out. We hope that we honor his legacy by shining a bright light on environmental issues and sharing good news about the success of various conservation programs when possible.
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