OPINIONFresh Food

A New Opportunity for Farmers

Can CSAs ease shopper safety concerns?

lempert

On our weekly podcast, Farm Food Facts, we talk a lot about how farmers are dealing with the problems of climate change and COVID-19, and we have shared their stories on how some have chosen to rethink their businesses and sell direct to consumers.

A very real problem that they are faced with is a shortage of seasonal workers to pick fruit and vegetables, which has put an enormous strain on our supply chain. And it is a worldwide problem.

The Food Foundation in the U.K. found that weekly sales of vegetable boxes have increased by 111% in recent weeks, resulting in an estimated 3.5 million boxes being delivered in the U.K. alone. Euronews reports that with this surge in interest for locally produced food, a post-COVID future is likely to see consumers reluctant to go back to the way things were before.

Community supported agricultures (CSAs) have been here in the U.S. for a number of years now, usually operating on a local scale and mostly for produce items, but recent years have seen these subscription boxes expand to include milk, honey, meat and other foods direct from farmers. 

Eight years ago in the U.K., the CSA Network was launched to bring farmers and their communities together. Now, news says two-thirds of members in the U.K. are supplied with all or nearly all of their vegetables by these projects and over 70% of people involved reported that it improved their quality of life, changing their cooking and eating habits for the better.

The most striking benefit, particularly in times of global crisis, is that local farming is often more reliable than the industrial food chain. By avoiding all of the packaging and processing that takes imported food from warehouse to supermarket shelf, putting the food directly into the hands of consumers means less impact on availability when an event like an international pandemic occurs, they write.

So the question is whether here in the U.S., we will see the same uptick in CSA membership. Until now, CSAs were mostly used by people who wanted fresher foods and a stronger connection to the farm. Now will it evolve to being a more secure resource for our foods?

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