Since the day we started selling to the public, people have approached us about a CSA program. There is one in town and run by Trent Boyd at Harvest Farm, but I haven't confirmed its recent operation. This year, however, the pressure of the requests to investigate by our customers became hard to ignore.
My background is in nonprofits and education, so we started with research. All indication and studies show that the best CSA programs start organically (haha) with the full support of their community and grow to scale. We started a fundraiser this week to offset the cost of working out the feasibility of a program in the area that showcases the best Cullman has to offer. We're not sure if it will work yet, we aren't sure if there is enough demand, and we're not sure where the path will lead, but we're open minded, resourceful, and willing to serve...so, let's see where this goes!
Read more below if you have questions about what a CSA is and why it could be important here. There are many formats they can take with increasing levels of shareholder involvement. If this is something of interest to you, there is a 'Donate' button at the bottom of the page. Start up costs will be well over $1000 and will include different licensing, packaging, certifications, advertising, and packaging. As you submit your donation, there is also an interest section to indicate if you'd like to be part of the pilot program. We will be holding an interest meeting in the next few weeks, so stay tuned.
WHAT IS A CSA?
If you’re unfamiliar with what a CSA is, it stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” The function of a CSA stays true to its name. It’s a farm in which individuals purchase a “crop share” during the winter and early spring, before the season begins. Then, throughout the growing season, share members either come to the farm weekly to pick up their already-paid-for shares of just-harvested vegetables, or they pick up their shares at a pre-determined location. Shareholders financially support the farmer in advance to grow fresh vegetables for them in the upcoming growing season.
The content of each week’s share truly follows the seasons, as everything is grown from seed to seedling, tended, and then harvested on the premises. Most CSA farms either carry the “naturally grown” or “organic” label, which are fairly similar in their implication – no pesticides or chemical fertilizers, plus sustainable farming practices. In other words, vegetables you can really feel good about eating. Above is an example of my recent crop share from last week (February). Yes! Many farms continue to grow through the winter under the shelter of greenhouses. As you can see, we are abounding in winter leafy greens and root vegetables, but before I know it we’ll be carting home sugar snap peas and quarts of strawberries. Below is a photo of my little one from a couple of years ago. To this day he is always sneaking fresh cherry tomatoes, carrots, green beans and berries from my weekly bag of goodies.
BENEFITS OF CSA FARMS FOR THE FARMER:
- The opportunity to get to know the people they grow food for. Good ol’ job satisfaction.
- Better cash flow for farms as they plan for a new season. Early payments from shareholders means enough money to buy seeds, farm supplies, and plan for labor expenses at the start of the season.
- When farmers can identify their market before the beginning of the season, they can plan the use of their resources more efficiently, which means less waste of money and of crop.
- A better market for growing a greater variety of produce, including heirloom varieties. (Note in the picture below the farmer holding cylindra beets – an heirloom variety. You won’t find those in most grocery stores!)
- Instead of spending time marketing already-grown vegetables during the warmer months, farmers can spend that time in the winter – marketing the vegetables they plan to grow. This means more time for them to focus on what’s important during the growing season; growing you stellar produce.
- Eliminating the middle-man in the packaging, transportation, and selling of produce. This means more profit ends up in the growers pocket, which they can then reinvest in their business.
BENEFITS OF CSA FARMING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND FUTURE GENERATIONS:
- Less CO2 emissions from the energy required to transport and refrigerate produce across long distances.
- No groundwater pollution from pesticides and fertilizers, which ensures better drinking water for us and future generations.
- No damage to the fish population from pollution caused by the runoff of fertilizers that feeds oxygen-depleting organisms and throws off the balance of our fisheries, lakes, ponds, and streams.
- Management of healthy nutrient cycling of the soil by maintaining the balance of things like nitrogen, phosphorous, and methane. This means the soil remains productive for this generation and those to follow.
- The humane treatment of animals.
- Elimination of the “hidden cost” of pesticide and fertilizer production on the community. This is an almost 10 billion dollar industry!
- Taking that Big Ag industry from large corporations and putting those dollars, instead, into the local economy and local pockets.
CSA BENEFITS FOR YOU:
Strawberry picking. Nuff said. Seriously though, eating strawberries out of a chemical-free strawberry patch on a sunny May afternoon is a little glimpse of heaven…
- Pesticide and chemical-free produce at a lower cost than the grocery store. I calculated a few years ago that being part of a CSA saved my family roughly $500 that year compared to if I had been buying the same organic produce at the store! That was enough to sell me, and literally made chemical-free produce affordable for my family.
- Feeding myself and my family chemical-free produce. The pesticides and fertilizers used in conventional farming have been shown to be carcinogenic (cancer causing), and endocrine disruptors (i.e., your hormones). On a greater scale, this translates into increased mortality and morbidity within the community and the resulting medical expense and loss of labor.
- The privilege of eating vibrant, just-harvested produce. If you’re a part of a CSA, say goodbye to wilted greens and tasteless tomatoes. Your produce will be harvested when it’s ripe and, in most cases, find its way into your kitchen within a day of being picked. This means better flavor and more nutrient-rich produce.
- Access to heirlooms and more unusual produce varieties, and the fun that comes with trying new things!
- The ability to get to know your farmers and develop a relationship of trust with those that nourish your family.
- Creating for yourself and the next generation a relationship with the earth, outside of structured parks and playgrounds, is good for cognitive development and happiness.
- Creating for yourself and the next generation an understanding of what real food is and the value of its production, which means better nutrition choices and health throughout your family’s life.
Taken from: Simple Seasonal.