Last year was my last CSA for a while. Don’t get me wrong – I love the concept of a CSA (community supported agriculture). I love the idea of paying for produce up front and getting a weekly share throughout the growing season. I also love knowing that I am supporting a local farm family.
But as the CSA become more technologically advanced, I am finding that it was not meeting the needs of my family.
The local farm we supported now uses a program called “Harvie,” which is based half way across the country. Harvie coordinates all the communication and CSA preferences for the farm. The problem is that, in my opinion, Harvie is much like having an automated answering service. Personally, I prefer to have a direct relationship with the farm.
I don’t know how expensive Harvie’s services are for the farm, but it breaks my heart to know that instead of my money supporting my local farm, a significant portion of my money is now traveling far away.
So the two main reasons that I wanted to participate in the CSA – to support a local family and to support our local economy – were significantly jeopardized by Harvie’s unwelcome “assistance.”
I decided there had to be a better fit for my family and for me. So this year I set out on an experiment to figure out what that is. I can tell you that I was not only surprised, but delighted by what I figured out.
Many options went through my head as I tried to figure out what to do, but none of them sat well with me. In the meantime, I decided to visit my local farmer’s market.
I wasn’t thrilled at this idea, but I realized it would provide me with farm fresh produce while I figured out a better plan. I set my alarm for the first Saturday it opened, and headed out the door. By the time I finished and unloaded the car, I had an entirely different perspective.
It took me less than an hour to get to the farmer’s market, park, shop, load the car and get back home. That is about half the time it normally takes me to get my groceries.
I could carry everything I purchased in one trip. I’m not quite sure how it happens, but when I’m at the grocery store, I always seem to end up with items I never intended on purchasing. And it always takes multiple trips to unload the car. But since I shopped the Farmer’s market with a large basket, I could only come back to the car with what I could carry in my hands, and this was a good thing.
Every penny I spent supported someone local. From the farmers’ co-op to the mother-daughter team to the farmer couple, each table that I visited contained a story. Each farmer worked hard to grow that food, and each dollar I spent went to that farmer. Instead of supporting one family, I was now able to support a lot of local families. My dollars are going further now, and no one uses Harvie.
I also realized how much more variety there is outside my local CSA. I can now get meat, eggs, produce and other items that were not previously available. Instead of asking one farmer to stretch their efforts thin by spreading their time between meat and vegetables, I can support the meat farmer who specializes in meat and the organic vegetable farmer who only grows organic vegetables. It’s a small detail, but I found the quality of what I purchased was truly elevated.
Finally, what shocked me the most was that when I came home I was happy. I talked with hard working people that I would be proud to call my friends. They all treated me with respect because they wanted to share their hard work with me, not because they were following a script that management told them they must follow. They could answer all my questions because they grew the produce. And they were excited to help me learn about what I was buying.
Since that first Saturday, I have made it back to the farmer’s market almost every week. I come home with a smile on my face, my food lasts all week and tastes incredible, and I know that every dollar I spend at that market goes to someone I am getting to know by name – someone in my local community. For now, I’ll be shopping at my farmer’s market every Saturday until further notice.