The Benefits of CSA Membership
by Lucas Brownback
Considering a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership this spring? Hear the mutual benefits directly from a second-generation farmer who was seven years old when his family first began offering CSA membership in 1994.
The CSA model works and makes farming viable for the future. The concept is simple: it’s a relationship of mutual support and commitment between a local farm and its community. As a member, you help support the farm for the duration of the growing season. In return, the farm family and dedicated crew do all the work necessary to plant, grow, harvest and deliver your produce. The cost of your weekly share is locked in at the time you join and ensures that all of your food dollars are going directly to the farmer-only.
Picture fresh local produce stocked in your fridge each week; encouraging healthy and nutritious eating. Your kids are trying bok choy and are learning all the different colors, shapes and varieties of vegetables and fruits at a young age. Instead of going out to eat, you and your partner are spending time in the kitchen together, learning how to cook using different ingredients from your local region. Often CSA members are thrilled to have a real education of their local climate’s true growing capabilities and “why asparagus is so expensive and imported from other countries in September.”
For many health-conscious individuals, knowledge and assurance that all of their produce is coming from the same farm with the same growing practices is vital. Imagine how many hands are in the pot when it comes to your groceries; the store, the warehouse, the truck drivers, the produce buyer and lastly, the farmers. Now imagine all of those hands physically touching your food. With all the recent recalls in the produce industry, there is no better time to support and commit to local agriculture through a CSA membership. Contrary to popular belief, small local farms are at an advantage when it comes to food safety. Less acreage, less workers and less travel of the actual produce makes it much easier for farmers to manage, trace and safely keep track of their yields and growing practices. All consumers are able to change/control the food industry by consciously deciding where to spend their food dollars.
Traditional CSA memberships are paid for up-front—at the beginning of the year when most vegetable farms in our region are not producing or making any type of income. At the same time, needing to buy expensive seeds and machinery, supplies, certifications, building repairs and general labor costs to get them going well into the summer. Without this incredibly sustainable CSA model, many farms, like Spiral Path, would have never made it successfully past their first year with 15 supporting members.
Perhaps even more importantly, young farm kids like myself and my brother would never have grown up feeling and witnessing the true support and encouragement from our own community to return home (after college) and continue our family farm. So many years later (26 to be exact), we are both here as second-generation farmers and stewards of the land who are inspired to help heal the environment and health care crisis by continuing to build our soil health so that we can provide fresh produce to our customers that is loaded with nutritional value.
Lucas Brownback is one of the many Brownback family members that grow delicious and healthy food at Spiral Path Farms. The USDA-certified organic farm (since 1994) is 300 acres and supports 1,800 CSA members. For more information about the farm, the family, CSA memberships and local markets, visit www.spiralpathfarm.com.