Monday, July 15, 2013

From Farm to Food Pantries: Our CSA Model

The Food for All CSA Project is a partnership between food pantries and farms, facilitated by Healthy Acadia, to offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to 133 households experiencing low income in Hancock County for the 2013 season. Community Supported Agriculture is a system by which consumers pay farmers directly at the beginning of the growing season to receive weekly deliveries of fresh produce throughout the summer months. CSAs provide an income to farmers in the spring when they need it most. In exchange, consumers receive more than what they pay for because the retail value of all produce received amounts to higher than the CSA price. Though variations exist, this is the most common model offered by our local farmers. CSAs play an integral role in the farm economy of Hancock County. Most of the dozens of farms that we regularly work with offer CSAs to hundreds of families throughout the county. It is uncommon, however, for those experiencing low income to be able to afford either the up-front cost of a CSA or the prices of local, organic food. The Food for All CSA Project makes healthy food accessible to more families, supports local farmers, and builds relationships between farmers and community members.
Ready for Pick-up
While farmers often offer reduced-price CSA shares, or working shares, and try to accommodate the different needs of community members with flexible payment plans, the families we reached out to through the Hancock County Food Pantry Network have added difficulties coming up with the upfront cash on which the CSA model is based. The Food for All CSA Project supports our local farms and connects them to sectors of their local community they might not otherwise reach, by partially subsidizing the shares. The shares provided through this project are offered to participants at $50 while valued at $200. Farmers have enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to create new relations with community members, providing input and advice on how to best organize each new drop-off point, making sure preservation and quality are upheld, and sometimes even offering to deliver to people’s doorsteps in situations where transportation is an issue. In addition, food pantries have opened their doors to us, allowing us to reach out to their clients with this opportunity, which sometimes adds another layer of complexity to their volunteer work, in a conscious effort to ensure more fresh healthy options for community members.

Packing 20 Individual Shares
 The participating farms are Beech Hill Farm, Happy Town Farm, King Hill Farm, Mandala Farm, Old Ackley Farm, Star Root Farm, Sweet Pea Farm, and Tide Mill Organic Farm. This community of farmers has been extremely welcoming, as we’ve gone through the ins and outs of running a new pilot CSA Project in partnership with our local food pantries. As leaders in the effort to have more locally grown fresh vegetables accessible to more community members, farms and food pantries are creating long lasting relationships with community members and building the foundation for continuing this type of work in the future. Healthy Acadia is pleased to be a part of the growing relationship between local farms and food pantries and is extremely dedicated to making these sorts of initiatives take root. The CSA Project is a pilot program that can provide a base from which to gather input from farms, pantries and families served, which Healthy Acadia and partners will use to design new strategies for long-term solutions to poverty and food insecurity, while bringing a sustainable consumption model closer to home.
Derek Semler - playing behind free produce and bread stand
Fill Your Bag for $5!

Farmer Mellie and CSA members
Our extended “Free Produce & Bread Day” will continue through the end of August, and the $5 bags of produce valued at $21 will be offered until the several shares we still have available are filled. Bread or produce can be donated every Thursday and Saturday before 8am, or small amounts can be dropped of daily between 8am and 5pm at the Emmaus Center. All donations are greatly needed and appreciated. We are still looking for gleaners, stand managers and other volunteers! If you are interested in getting involved with the Gleaning Initiative, please contact me.

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