A warning to farmers about “CSAs”

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Sometimes distributors are helpful and we give middlemen a cut. But do not let those same middlemen profit off the integrity of community supported agriculture’s (CSA) connotation.


This is what we should avoid:

“Last Tuesday, a farm-to-table subscription service called Local Roots NYCdropped off boxes at pickup spots in New York City including a cafe, a brew pub and the offices of BuzzFeed.

Alongside locally grown rainbow chard, romaine lettuce and beets, some members got bottles of olive oil from Italy or bars of chocolate and bags of dried pasta, both Brooklyn-made. From Rustic Roots, an organic-food delivery service in the tristate area, members could receive fruit boxes stacked with oranges, pineapples and avocados.

Although both companies use the term “C.S.A.,” community-supported agriculture, to describe their service, the presence of a middleman between the farmer and the customer is precisely what traditional C.S.A.s are designed to avoid. And since olives and oranges do not grow in this region, those products provide no direct income to local farmers, precisely the people the C.S.A. was invented to benefit.

I have people asking me for CSA recommendations in the DC and Maryland areas all the time. I know of several community garden and urban farming projects that do this very well but sometimes those same people go with another option (usually an online cart service) because of a “lower price.”That’s fine, or at least ok, but it’s not a CSA.

They forget the true cost of food and instead are just replacing grocery stores with pseudo-Amazon’s – not good for sustainability or innovative agriculture.

The rest of the article has the owners of these companies try and argue against this point but it comes off sounding hollow. Regardless, for the rest of the story and the image credit, check out the original NY Times article.

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