February is National CSA Sign-Up Month

Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 20, 2017

Whatever it is we are concerned about, we can help ease with food. Food is pleasurable, nourishing and nurturing. It is medicine, art and education. Food is social, political, scientific and spiritual. Everyone eats, which makes food one of the most powerful vehicles for creating unity in community.

Local food initiatives – producing and purchasing food in a community for the community – are one solution that works to relieve the problems we face such as skyrocketing global food prices, low-income healthy food access, profitable farms, land preservation, strong local economy, obesity, diabetes, public health, focused and alert students, safe access to green, quiet spaces in nature, finding common ground to bridge gaps between populations. We look after our own, meet and work together, and learn from one another by engaging more fully with food from our own community.

One of the most direct and engaging ways to connect with food from community is to join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. Members of CSAs buy their share into the program and receive a weekly share of the harvests throughout an entire growing season. Traditional CSAs happen on one farm where the food is grown just for CSA. Traditional CSAs strive to be as diverse and as plentiful as possible for the entire growing season.

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Another CSA model is where one farm runs its own CSA but supplements with food from other farms to reduce risk and increase diversity.

A third model of CSA is where an off-farm coordinator works to bring together shareholders with the harvests of multiple farms relieving not only the sales and marketing burden of the harvest season but also manages the logistics of distribution and customer service.

In all of the models, CSA is a trending positive experience for farmers and consumers. What CSA means to the farmer is a guaranteed weekly purchase of harvests to a marketplace already committed to them.  What CSA means to the consumer is a direct connection to the farms in their own community and a regular access point to fresh seasonal food, delivered to them and usually with recipe tips, preparation or preservation tips, and more.

February is National CSA Sign-Up month as farms prepare for their spring and summer growing seasons. I am passionate about CSA programs because I see the special connection between farmers and eaters. I also see a path to economically sustainable farms and healthier communities. I believe that economic sustainability is tied inextricably to agricultural sustainability and that CSA is an important part of that puzzle.

In addition, CSA is the most direct connection that an eater can have with his or her food source, because if you don’t grow your own food, it is a connection to the land that an eater can’t get in any other way. Through CSA, we imbue food with meaning, story, and connection. In a world of intractable problems, being a CSA farmer or CSA member is an act we can take to make life better for our land, economy, and community as a whole.

Take advantage of National CSA Sign-Up opportunities and special incentives this month. There are opportunities in Polk County to join an organic CSA program and many more offerings in the region, both of which can be found by contacting Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project in Asheville at asapconnections.org and by contacting Manna Cabanna Local Organic CSA program in Saluda and Tryon at info@mannacabanna.com.