I wanted to post up a bit of the newsletter I got from my CSA last week. For those that don't know what a CSA is, it stands for Community Supported Agriculture and we've been into it for about 9 years now. How it works is that you pre-pay for a share of vegetables from a local farmer. It helps the farmer greatly and it helps you get some of the freshest veggies that you could get aside from picking and eating directly from your own garden. It's a way to get back in touch with seasonal eating from YOUR region as well as getting back in touch with your local farms/famers. You can easily find a CSA near you by going to this website: http://www.localharvest.org/csa/ - there's a box there to key in your zip code to see what CSAs are in your neck of the woods. When we started using a CSA, we got a super great education on what it means to eat locally and seasonally! I totally took for granted getting any/all veggies that I wanted any time of the year in the supermarket and my eyes started to open on how much expense and fossil fuels are spent to fly/cart/drive/ship veggies from all over the world to my supermarket. While I'm super grateful for that accessibility and abundance, I also realized that it really helps the local economy to support local agriculture and particularly the small farmer who works SUPER hard to try to make a living. The other thing AWESOME that I learned about using a CSA was what exactly I was missing in terms of taste and quality by going to the darn supermarket! For example, it was mid-to-late-summer in Maryland when we were having fun with our first CSA shares (for this CSA, we had to actually work on the farm which was totally awesome and again, I learned a LOT.) We were getting some tomatoes in the share and I'll never forget looking at these different colored heirloom tomatoes: brandywines, green zebras, cherokee purples, sungolds, to name a few. (I don't think sungolds are necessarily heirloom but BOY do they taste good! Like candy! Also, what are the names of the large orange tomatoes? GOD THEY ARE SO GOOD!) Anyway, I took them home and ate the freshest, ripest, juiciest, plumpest, sweetest, most amazing tomatoes EVER! Now my uncle used to grow Jersey tomatoes back home and they were tasty - nothing beats a good beefsteak tomato, but OMG! These tomatoes were unreal! I made a vow that I would never buy a tomato off-season ever again. I totally went to the store and looked at the colorless tomatoes that get picked before they're ripe so they'll last the journey to the store and which are sometimes wrapped in plastic and placed on a styrofoam tray and I asked myself, "where's the life here?" "where's the vitality of this fruit?"http://vt-fiddle.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=2&products_id=11 Now for what our wonderful farmer, Seth, wrote last week. It's a wonderful ditty following along these lines of why it's good to eat more local foods and support your local farmer... Enjoy. (And write your comments below. Would love to hear what you have to say on the subject... Seth, by the way is part of a dynamic duo that operates Worcester Woods Farm CSA...
.... I really believe that cost is ultimately the major obstacle for a local food production system to overcome in order to be a serious supplier to the majority of people. These days convenience might run a close second, but that seems an easier issue to address. I am fully aware that farmers deserve a decent income (believe me), and prices should reflect that, but if the guy making ten or twelve bucks an hour can’t afford the food, what does this say about the viability for the small- to mid-sized farm? One should not need a college education to have quality food be the staple of one’s diet. I would suggest that an over reliance on the terms “organic”, “gourmet”, “sustainable”, and “enviro-friendly” to justify charging ever-increasing prices is going to result in too many farms competing for a finite amount of people willing to pay 3 bucks for a head of lettuce or 20 bucks for a chicken. I’m sure I’ve touched on this subject in previous newsletters, but I feel it’s worthy of additional consideration.
The trick is for local food to be able to compete directly with the mass-produced stuff. If it could be made cost-effective for Shaws or Price Chopper to carry, or better yet, feature truly fresh food, then I think we could more optimistically use the word “sustainable.” One of my favorite ironies is to be in the produce department of some big super market, looking at a bunch of parsley that is pale, wilted and lifeless, and all of a sudden an automatic misting or “freshening” system comes on from above and sprays water over a bunch of crappy, two week old vegetables. No wonder you see a ton of fat people with carts full of Fig Newton’s and Lucky Charms and frozen pizzas. At least you know that stuff is gonna taste good. The fruits and vegetables are, for the most part, tasteless and unappetizing. If you had day old bright green, crunchy, vibrant, perky vegetables under that same nice misting system, at the same price or just a few cents more, people would walk by and actually smell food. They would feel good putting this beautiful green stuff in their carts. Maybe you could sell 50 heads of lettuce for 3 bucks a piece at the farmers market, but you could probably sell 500 head for $1.50 at Shaws. Somehow we have to find a connection between the two philosophies, thereby the downsides of each (i.e. over-priced vs. cheap crap) are lessened or eliminated. It seems the word “organic” has driven a wedge where one needn’t be. I use compost to grow broccoli, some other guy uses a bag of 10-10-10. It’s still broccoli, and the one you should buy is the one that tastes better and makes you feel better and hopefully fits into your budget. Five bucks is too much even if it’s top quality, and 99 cents isn’t worth much either because there is no joy in eating flabby, lifeless food. ....
I totally love receiving the perspective of others, particularly my local farmer dude on this subject.
Take care and have a lovely night. Go outside and view the stars if you can.