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March 1, 2015
Are CSA's a Sustainable Model?
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
The Farmer and I had a date night this week. Yes, its true, we didn’t actually go anywhere. After the kids finally fell sleep, I slipped into a new dress and put on my pink fuzzy bathrobe. We enjoyed a salad together and a piece of Endangered Species chocolate. As usual the conversation drifted to the farm. We revisited a previous discussion about our three, five and ten year goals for the farm.
Invariably, this subject brings up the question of the long term sustainability of the CSA model. Recently we have seen evidence that big corporations are moving in. We have already been approached by “Big Name Corporation” asking if we want them to sell our “local” produce nationwide. All we have to do is pack and ship. Hmmm....
But aren't we all super busy? Running all day long and always looking for ways to save a few minutes here and there. Many of you have supported our farm for a decade, or longer. Is it getting more difficult to find the time to run and pick up your box?
The Buy Local movement gained momentum after the recession, but now more and more people are questioning it. How about this article written a few years ago, titled, 'Buy Local' Movements are for the Economically Illiterate? Or here is another, The Locavore's Dilemma: Why Pineapples Shouldn't be Grown in North Dakota. In this article the authors state, "Local food is generally more expensive than non-local food of the same quality. If that were not so, there would be no need to exhort people to 'buy local.'" After my recent trip to buy vegetables from Giant food stores (such a painful wintertime necessity for the Farmer's wife!) I can safely argue that our produce is no more expensive, and mostly less expensive than the organic alternatives I find there. Two packages of romaine lettuce for $10? That seems pretty pricey to me. And the taste? Well, I can't go there because I am completely biased.
Nevertheless, an argument that resonates more soundly with me is based on the economy of time. We are all short of it. I frequent Firefly Bookstore, a small family owned treasure just 15 minutes from the farm. And yet I confess that I still find it easier to pop online and order a few books and a spiral staircase from Amazon, wait a few days and pick them up from my front door step. (Okay, I didn't really order a spiral staircase, but did you know that you can?!)
The Farmer and I have long believed that CSA needs to be about the customer, as much as the farm. Supporting a local farm has value, but we feel the consumer should feel valued and supported as well. That’s why we offer online ordering. We believe that this gives the vegetable consumer a better experience than simply receiving a box of any old vegetables the farmer wants to put in there. But we still recognize the flaws in the system.
Now don't get me wrong. We aren't trying to shoot ourselves in the foot. And we certainly hope we haven't persuaded anyone to UN-register for our CSA this season.
We DO want to hear from you. What makes CSA work for you? How important is time efficiency versus the feel good moment of supporting your local farming family? Looking down the road, what do you think needs to change to make the CSA model remain a viable option for busy families?
Simultaneous to this blog, we have opened this discussion on Facebook. Please hop over there and post your comments, concerns, and thoughts. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Let’s gather together, virtually for the moment, and talk about this. Times are getting harder for CSA’s, the market is filling with large and small farms vying for the same customer base. And now big business wants a piece of the same pie. View our Facebook post here
Oh, was our date romantic? It was.
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