Friday, May 19, 2017:
I roll the Mini off a busy suburban street onto an offshoot, a gravel road I literally drive by 5 times a week but have never noticed. For nearly three minutes I slowly travel this winding gravel road to the main stand, taking in sights of the expansive farm: seedlings that would harvest in the coming months, followed by corn that was still low to ground, and finally sprawling greens that were vibrant in the early weeks of the growing season.
I was here to pick up my first CSA. (CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.)
Here’s the quick version of how a CSA works:
In a world where I feel so disconnected from most of the products I consume on a daily basis, subscribing to a CSA is (quite literally) a breathe of fresh air. Cobblestone Farm will be producing most of the food my husband and I consume over the next several weeks (until the final harvest in October).
I see the rise of the CSA as an extension of the farm-to-table trend that has taken foothold in American culture. (My favorite local Fayetteville farm-to-table restaurants include The Farmer’s Table and Greenhouse Grille.)
For me, supporting local farmers with a CSA is a win-win-win-win.
- I am consuming fresh eggs and vegetables all season long – and trying new things! (During my first pickup I received, among many other things, a bundle of mustard greens – that’s new!)
- I am investing in my local farmers by giving them funds at the beginning of their growing season. This decreases their need for traditional debt and allows them to secure consumers early in the season, while they have time for such activity.
- I am voting with my dollar for sustainable farming (what up, soil health.)
- And since Cobblestone Farm, where I’m subscribed, has a focus on providing jobs and food for those in need (they donate HALF of all yields to hunger relief), I am supporting those efforts as well.
Like most movements in America, the farm fresh food movement has come and gone – and come back again. 100 years ago, this is how everyone ate! And throughout the past century as our manufacturing capabilities expanded, so did the variety of our food. Some innovations like frozen food and mass produced canning provide many benefits, all of which I won’t get into now. But as the new found food-manufacturing industry took hold, supermarket shelves began to contain more and more processed, food-ish products. That innovation also has its place, but as many Americans have found, processed food alone will not lead to complete nourishment, which can in turn affect quality of life. And so society swings away from these innovations and feats of food science and manufacturing – and back to the farm tucked off the (now) busy suburban street.
Maybe it’s the widespread consumer education efforts made by documentaries and books like Forks Over Knives and In Defense of Food, which begins: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” as a guideline for healthy eating. Or maybe it’s that people are tired of food-ish things don’t fully nourish. Or maybe, as some progressive food critics point out, farm fresh food is a only a fad for those who can afford it, driving a further wedge between the haves and the have-nots. (Is anything in our culture NOT actually a complicated socio-economic-political issue?) I would like to understand the consumer motivations here better. But one thing is for sure: the farm movement is back, it’s mass-culturalized, and I hope it’s here to stay.