How long does it take for the food you eat to travel from the source to your plate? Many urban dwellers don’t look to see where their produce, meat, and other foods are coming from and how long or how far it has gone to get there. It’s not something that’s usually at the forefront of our minds, However, now that the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis have forced us to focus more on locally generated sources, now is the best time for our cities to invest and support Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Community or customer?
Community (or customer) Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the initiative taken by a city or urban municipality to support local farming methods as a source for many things. In Germany it is also known in a broader sense as SoLaWi (Soziale Landwirtschaft) First, it provides healthy and accessible foods to a variety of income levels, from soup kitchens/food banks to large homeowners growing in their back yards. Second, it provides a source of income for those who generate these gardens, either personally or commercially. And third, especially in the cases of school gardens, it provides education and spreads awareness on the positives of urban agriculture.
Popular during WWII, CSA has grown exponentially over the last decade. There can be multiple reasons why a community or group will choose to strive towards CSA, even further than education and income. For many, it is an opportunity to support the health of a particular group of people, such as seniors or those below the poverty line. A social aspect is also present as well, most notably, global awareness of greenhouse emissions and other destructiveness caused by the shipment, etc. of produce over long distances.
What does CSA mean in a COVID-19 world?
The world has changed drastically over the past six months alone – and it’s done so permanently. We as humans can no longer glide through life with unconscious blindness of what is happening around us. Rather than speak too politically in this article, we would like to point out, however, the increased importance and significance of our own bodies and health that has appeared in this short time frame.
Many of us have had extra time to spend at home to look inwards to ourselves, which has caused us to react and bond as a community to find economically and health-conscious solutions. Personally we’ve made changes, whether it be a herb garden on our balconies, and as a community we’ve taken steps to feed those who have been impacted by the financial strain of a pandemic, such as lunch handouts and produce/food baskets.
How can cities begin to initiate or invest in CSA?
One option, which has been readily used in CSA communities for decades, is for interested citizens of a city to become members and actively support a local farm or agricultural project. In this method, members can pre-finance the costs of planting and growing a crop (of various sizes), providing the farmers with a source of available income. In exchange, members receive a portion of the final crop each week or month and can also play an active role in cultivating the produce they will consume or sell at their place of business.
Another possible and simple option is to find unused spaces within a community (perhaps even on the roof of a condo building) to build a cooperative garden. Members who sign up and pay a seasonal fee are provided with a small lot for themselves to plant, water, grow, and consume their own produce. Many food banks and other initiatives are also supported through portions of these community gardens.
Municipalities also have the chance to provide opportunities to young entrepreneurs in the form of resources or grants to support them in igniting ideas and methods for which CSA can be developed closer to home. More of the younger generation is proving to have business-centered minds, however, there may be a disconnect as the belief that farming, or other CSA enterprises, is not a plausible business route persists.
The amount of knowledge available for those seeking to learn more about CSA is endless. Now that the vast majority of the global population has become aware of their own health and what we feed our bodies, there is more of a need than ever for our cities to go back to our roots and find methods of spreading the awareness of CSA and how even a few small initiatives can spark community-wide support of an organic, bacteria-free, fresh to the table source for food.
Are you interested in learning more about community supported agriculture and how you can start a movement in your city? Reach out to join one of our Food in the City events for a conversation with a member of the LocalChampions Community or our team today.
Food in the City: Attend our Event on Sept-30
This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)