To eat as locally and seasonally as possible, buying into a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) plan is the way to go. Not only does it ensure a season (or more) of fresh local veggies, it also helps farmers get a better return on their products (customers often pay upfront when they subscribe). Each week a big box or bag of veggies lands on your porch, often containing your veggie quotient for all of that week’s meals.
So what if a CSA could take it one step further and provide ALL the ingredients you need for ALL of a week’s meals? This is the question Brian Massey of Civil Eats recently asked. He found that not only is this type of business model possible: it has gained a foothold amongst farmers.
The idea is fairly simple: a typical farm running this CSA model would muster all the milk, eggs, whole-grain flour, fruit, meat, and all the veggies that you ask for. A lot of the businesses, Massey explains, have order-taking set up online so subscribers can pick only what they want, thus avoiding the “what the heck do I do with all of this @#%$ squash” conundrum of a typical CSA bounty.
The cost will feel like a barrier to some customers, with some farms needing to charge up to six times the amount of a typical veggie-based CSA arrangement. But as Massey points out, for customers who can afford it this is really a no-brainer:
...most members seem to feel it’s worth it. Heather Vogt, a member of the Moutoux CSA, says the $250/per month cost initially seemed too high. “But then we tried the milk, and we were hooked. It changed our life, and this is how we eat now. The kids occasionally want things like cereal, but I’d say the farm provides 75-80 percent of our diet.”
Not only are these types of arrangements great for customers, Massey also explains that the whole-diet CSA can be a boon for the rural economy. Mike Kwasniewski, a farmer who recently started a whole-diet CSA, told Massey how the concept can give farmers who live far away from the city the opportunity to sell sustainably grown produce.
I didn’t have that urban market where I could get a premium, so if I could supply more to fewer clients, and if I could structure the farm in a way that it could do all of that, then I’d be better off by focusing on serving the local population instead of shipping [my food] off to the closest metro area.”
Living outside of a city is by no means a requirement to finding a CSA. Moutox Orchard serves the Washington D.C. area, an “urban market” that is very interested in their produce. Massey mentions that there are currently only a handful of these whole-diet CSAs throughout the States. As awareness continues to grow amongst farmers and consumers alike, we hope to hear of more.
For a great example of a budding farm that is attempting this model, check out Good Keeper Farm in Gardners, PA, about an hour and a half away from Baltimore.
Image via Suzie's Farm Flickr
What if One Farm Raised (Almost) Everything You Ate? via Civil Eats
Read all articles by Damon Corey-Watson