CSA farmers and members!

Inspired by the examples of CSA networks in other countries, I have a suggestion that may help us reinvigorate our movement, encourage new people to join CSAs, and win the support of wellness programs.

Here is my proposal: Let’s create a CSA charter or pledge that all CSAs can use in an energetic publicity and educational campaign to grow our share of the pie of eaters. If we can agree on language, sometime early this winter, after the election frenzy recedes, we can print this in all the CSA member newsletters, in all the state and regional network publications – Fair Share Coalition, CAFF, Just Food, the NOFAs, PASA, Small Farm Central, etc. and get a lot of public attention. Having a clear (though not too detailed) definition, will give us greater weight in advocating with wellness programs and insurance companies to get their support. It will also help us differentiate farm-based CSAs from the aggregators, even the well-intentioned ones, that sell weekly bags of produce that look like CSA shares, although the farmers are paid just as though they sold to any wholesale market.

As has been noted in the NYTimes and by people closer to CSA – Simon Huntley, of Small Farm Central, and Steven McFadden, author of Farms of Tomorrow Revisited – many CSAs all over the country have been having trouble recruiting and retaining members.  Farms that had waiting lists no longer even have as many members as they would like. Based on interviews with former CSA members, Simon Huntley has some good ideas for making CSAs more “customer-centric” while retaining the essentials of CSA. He advises improving member retention through asking members what they need, offering more choices and continually educating them about the food (“CSA: We have a Problem,” 8/17/2016). While Huntley is fine tuning business as usual, Steven McFadden admonishes the public to wake up and recognize the transformative potential of CSA as an emergency response to climate change (“Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones,” see * quote below). Continue reading “National Charter for US CSAs?”