Sep 12, 2011

Community Supported Agriculture

If you are new to the local food arena, you may have heard the term CSA tossed around and wondered exactly what that is, so I'm going to explain and then tell you about a great local CSA opportunity. Here’s the basic definition of a CSA program and a few details from Local Harvest:

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. This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.

Advantages for farmers:
  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm's cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow
Advantages for consumers:
  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from "their" farm – even veggies they've never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown
It's a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound. Tens of thousands of families have joined CSAs, and in some areas of the country there is more demand than there are CSA farms to fill it.

Another important aspect of CSAs is the concept of “shared risk.” Local Harvest says: Many times, the idea of shared risk is part of what creates a sense of community among members, and between members and the farmers. If a hailstorm takes out all the peppers, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the winter squash and broccoli. Most CSA farmers feel a great sense of responsibility to their members, and when certain crops are scarce, they make sure the CSA gets served first. Still, it is worth noting that very occasionally things go wrong on a farm – like they do in any kind of business...

I agree that this sense of “share bounty and shared risk” can bring the shareholders together as a community, in a way that is just not going to happen when the grocery store gets extra carrots or the shipment of chips is delayed. A small group of shareholders can visit the farm, encourage the farmer, and pray for rain. They can celebrate the bounty and mourn any loss. It is a risk, but the potential rewards, in both fresh produce and local community, seem great.

If you would like additional information about the CSA model you can view the full article on Local Harvest here.

Local CSA Opportunity:

If the idea of investing in a small farmer and being part of a small community that receives weekly food boxes appeals to you (like having your own garden without the work), tomorrow we'll let you know more details about an opportunity with Kellogg Valley Farms that is currently available.
Eddie Stuckey at Kellogg Valley Farms is a chemical-free farmer who has a small farm about 30 minutes outside of Little Rock. Last year, he offered 10 shares and I purchased a share in his CSA and was very pleased with it.  This year he is expanding to 20 shares.

Tomorrow, I'll explain more details.

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