Some bad news has arisen concerning food production. As the coronavirus pandemic has supply chains disrupted, farmers and producers are being forced to destroy their crops, dump milk, and butcher livestock. The reduction in commercial demand is mainly due, among many other reasons, to fewer people eating out, going to restaurants, and fewer school lunches being produced.
However, that doesn’t mean that people are interested in eating less often. (Personally, I’ve been eating more often while working from home). See, people are less interested in eating at these food establishments and there are many reasons for this.
Simply put, because of a shortage of safety gear and preparation and also through an abundance of caution and a powerful need to still eat, consumers have been going straight to the source to ensure their own food supply.
There are a lot of benefits to purchasing directly from the producer. Buying from local farms means fewer hands on your produce, which, incidentally, leads to fresher produce since the food is grown nearer to the purchase point. Buying directly from the producer is utilizing a distribution method that is perfectly geared towards a time that encourages social distancing. It’s been in place for generations!
Through CSAs, customers get the weekly or bi-weekly deliveries at open-air pickup stations or directly at the farms with little interaction needed.
People are coming to the realization, I think, that fresh food is one of the most essential elements to survival, and with news that food supply chains are now becoming stressed, purchasing food from local producers may be more essential than ever.
Under normal conditions, many local CSA farmers say they operate under tight budgets, especially in the spring, before the harvest (and purchasing) occurs. That’s changed in recent weeks, because the pandemic has brought with it heightened awareness of quality food, and more specifically, from where a consumer’s food originates.
But, where do you start? What are your options? Let’s take a quick look at what you can do locally, and why it’s important.
What is a CSA
A CSA (community supported agriculture) group is a different way to support local producers. Instead of buying your fruit and veggies at the grocery store, you buy directly from the farmer. You “prepay” an investment into the farm, subsidizing the farming operation in return for a “share” of the crops produced.
Parceled out in shares, customers receive a bundle of food at weekly intervals. In some instances, individual producers will combine their vegetables with other producers to make a more robust weekly share with more selection. Some even deliver directly to your home, but it is more common to meet at a more centralized location.
Depending on how large your share is or how long you sign up for, you can expect to pay anywhere between $20-$50 per week, and a full season can last between 12-15 weeks in Minnesota.
Why Join a CSA?
There are so many reasons to join a CSA. The number one reason is you are directly helping farmers in your community. Instead of purchasing your fruit and veggies at the grocery store, and paying for produce that has most likely travelled great distances, you are directly contributing to their operating costs. You are keeping your money in your community which has been proven to have a tremendous value.
And speaking of tremendous value, another reason you’ll want to join a local CSA is because all of the fruit, veggies, dairy, meats, and herbs will be locally-grown, everything will be made so close to your home it will be the most fresh you can get. Also, you’ll be exposed to new and different types of produce that you may never have tried before. You’ll be in for a delicious surprise every week!
How do I Join a CSA?
Now that you understand what a CSA is and its benefits, you may be interested in signing up for one. It’s really easy. You can first look locally to see who is in your neighborhood. If you’re in Minnesota, there’s a pretty good resource called Minnesota Grown. It’s not a complete list of growers in the state, but it’s pretty close. Another website to check is Local Harvest. You’ll also be able to check out if there are any Farmers Markets in your neighborhood. You’ll be able to chat one on one with farmers in your area to get a better idea of what services they provide, what their production schedules are, and if they are able to deliver directly or not.
Once you find a farmer close to you that fits your needs, all you need to do is give them a call or (more likely) fill out your information online. They’ll take payment and you’ll be on their list for the season. All you need to do from here on out is pick up your weekly shares and start researching new recipes from all the delicious food you’ll be getting!