I spent four hours at the Seward Co-op CSA fair on Saturday trying to recruit new members. A great day for a fair with the weather being so rainy. There was quite a crowd. Very loud. Glad to be back on the farm.
One thing I learned at the fair is that not all Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms are true CSA farms. How’s that you ask? Well, the whole concept behind a CSA farm is that members buy a share of the output of the farm. All produce grown on the farm goes to the members and all produce given to the members is grown on the farm.
On the first issue, many of the farms have multiple sales channels, e.g. farmers’ markets, wholesale, restaurants, etc. along with their CSA membership. This creates a conflict of interest in my opinion. Why? Because if the farm has a great year the excess produce won’t go to the members, it will go to the other sales channels. This limits the upside potential of members — one of the big benefits of joining a CSA farm. And in lean years there is no guarantee that the produce that does come out of the farm will go to the members. It could just as easily go to the wholesale contracts the farm has thus bringing in new money and keeping the wholesale customers happy. So the CSA members get to share the risk of farming but don’t see the reward of a great year.
On the other issue I discovered that some CSA farms resell other farms’ produce. What’s wrong with that? Well, one of the big reasons for joining a CSA is to know where your food comes from. If the food doesn’t come from the farm you joined then you have lost out on one of the reasons for joining. Fresh Earth Farms is quite transparent when it comes to knowing where your food comes from.
I don’t have a solution to the first issue other than finding out more about the farm you join prior to joining. On the second issue I propose a new regulation along the lines of the Country of Origin Labeling required of produce now sold in stores. I propose a Farm of Origin Labeling, or FOOL. With FOOL you know where your food comes from, no matter where you got it. We’d be fools not to implement FOOL. Fresh Earth Farms is a pure CSA farm. All the veggies we deliver to our members are grown right here at Fresh Earth Farms and all the veggies grown on the farm go to our members — except when we donate produce to the local food shelves.