Monday, January 19, 2009

Talking About CSAs / Just Food Workshop

What is a CSA?

It is a direct market relationship in which farmers sell their produce directly to consumers, who purchase a share of the season's produce before the season begins. Through CSA, members develop a relationship with the farmer and the land on which their food is grown -- and share the risks that are inevitable during a growing season.

For talking about CSAs it is good to understand the benefits they provide all around, to farmers, to members, and to the larger community.

Benefits to Farmers:
-capital upfront
- consistent demand
- on the short term as well as year after year
- farmers say: ' don't grow anything you haven't already sold' -- and CSA allows for that!
- less work for farmer (no advertising, etc)
- members share the risks
- allows farmers to diversify
- farmers get better price because no middle man
- allows farmers to be organic (supports them in investing in better practices all aroun
- supports expansion of farmers business (like off-season enterprises such as pickles...)
- they know who is eating their food

Benefits to Members:
knowing your farmer and his practices
- fresh, organic, local food
- being part of a shareholder community
- less packaging
- confidence that the methods advertised (organic, etc) are actually being used
- learning about food, cooking, agriculture
- eating higher proportion of nutritious food -- because you have a load to get rid of every week!
- supporting a local farmer (and not some corporation somewhere)
- better cost
- better variety

Benefits to the Community:
increased access to fresh food
- creating a stronger urban/rural connection (economically and in our heads)
- makes organic food more affordable
- better for the environment
- supporting local economy and preservation of local farms
- brings together a broad community
- increases food security

Another way to think about CSA is to frame it as an issue of 1. economic justice and 2. environmental justice.

Economic Justice:
- making quality fruits and vegetables available in neighborhoods that wouldn't otherwise offer these products.
- providing the farmer with a more favorable share of the profit.

Consider this: in the Upper West side there are about 7000 people per grocery store. In Bedford-Stuyvesant there are more than 63,000 people per grocery store! People in these areas are forced to buy at convenience stores which charge on average 8% more than groceries.

Meanwhile, farmers are getting only 19 cents per dollar when you buy at a grocery! All the rest goes to shipping, packaging, processing, advertising. CSAs eliminate all the middlemen and give the full dollar to the farmer.

Environmental Justice:
- providing toxin-free food to communities (especially low-income communities) that are routinely exposed to a variety of environmental toxins
- making it possible for farm workers to work in an environment free of the chemical products routinely used in conventional agriculture.