I finally got signed up for a vegetable share with Small Potatoes Farm through Farm to Folk, our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. This is the fourth year that I’ve had a CSA and I love it. I’m really looking forward to spring, and not just because I don’t want to look at snow anymore.
Having a CSA share is such a good experience in so many ways, but the most important one for me is that I know the farmers who grow the food I put on my table are getting honest pay for their labor, that they can afford to take care of their land and to take care of their employees. I also like the idea of keeping my food dollars in the local economy and of giving the money straight to the producer instead of through a string of middlemen and packagers. Another benefit that small vegetable farms provide is high biodiversity due to the many species of plants (and often animals too!) on the farms. They are often certified organic, but due to the high cost of certification,some farms forgo the label and just list their practices on signs or websites. Customers can actually meet the people who grow the food, ask questions, and make friends.
CSA’s are just one of many ways that farmers can receive fair pay for their produce; others include farmers markets and direct sales to restaurants. The one common factor across these is that they need to convince their customers that an increased cost is worth it. While there are certainly times when a certain fruit or vegetable is so locally abundant that it can be cheaper than the same fruit or vegetable from a large farm, there is no doubt that the economy of scale is lost on smaller farms. In order to break even, small farms have to charge a realistic amount for their produce. I’m ok with that. Are you?
You can look for CSAs (and farmers markets, etc) near you at Local Harvest.