Over the past several weeks, and indeed the last few years, we’ve been having an important conversation at the farm and amongst some of our friends, a conversation that centers around the question, “Why CSA”?
Recently, we've seen a trend away from CSA to buying locally at farmers' markets and local grocers - people want to eat what they want to eat, they want to cook what they want to cook; they are dismayed when it comes to the end of the week, and they are discarding produce that they didn’t know how to use or that they received to much of. Because we are offering local, field grown produce, what we offer is not substantially different than what customers can get at farmers markets and local-conscious grocers, and yet our offerings, and therefore what our CSA members receive, are still subject to the seasons and the vagaries of the weather and farming in general.
In the last 17 years of CSA farming, no two seasons have been alike, and yet we do provide ample high quality produce, year after year. Last year, we were lucky enough to have an unseasonably late fall, and were able to harvest broccoli and cauliflower into November for the first time in our Minnesota farming experience. This year, it froze early, it froze hard, and disease affected some of our crops (winter squash and kohlrabi). That is both the genius and the downfall of the CSA model. Long term members share in the bounty of good years, and get a lot of turnips in other years.
Has CSA served it's purpose, supporting local growers while the industry developed and general awareness about eating locally has blossomed?
Our CSA remains important to us for a multitude of reasons - not least of which is financial, providing us with operating capital at the beginning of the season, when we're really investing in the crops, but more importantly, with providing us with community; with the knowledge that locally grown food is important to people in our community, even in the winter months; with the connection to the people who eat our food, and a real awareness of the tables our produce is served on; and with a reason to be introspective on a regular basis.
So we thank you for that impetus to once again examine our intentions, to consider our customers and the very CSA model that means so much to us, however ungainly it may be sometimes. We would love to hear back from you - why (is?) CSA important to you?
Thank you once again for taking this adventure with us, and for your support of local food and local farmers.