Christianne White first started her Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription with The Full Plate Farm Collective because she wanted to maintain a healthier diet and support small farms.
“I really wanted to eat food that was produced locally,” she explained. “And I wanted to eat more vegetables.”
A couple of years ago, CSA also served as a way for White to bring fresh produce to a family member who was ill.
“I would stop at the farm — Stick and Stone Farm — and go in the back to the U-Pick Gardens, and pick just a small box of something,” she said. “It came right from the garden and tasted fresh.”
The Full Plate Farm Collective is a multi-farm organic CSA which includes Remembrance Farm, Stick & Stone Farm, and a small network of other local growers. White is a member of their CSA, which is a model for farms that allows subscribers to receive fresh produce every week.
Consumers buy a “share” of a farm’s harvest in advance in exchange for a portion of the crops. This offers consumers and farmers many benefits. Farmers have a guaranteed income with money coming in at the beginning of the season, and consumers have access to fresh, quality food.
There are options for a weekly box share, which can be delivered or picked up depending on the farm, as well as a free choice option. The free choice option allows subscribers to visit drop off locations to pick out a variety of produce. Many farms in the area operate with the CSA model, and there are many pickup sites all over the greater Ithaca area. For example, Full Plate has a number of pickup sites including on several of its member farms, as well as at Press Bay Alley in downtown Ithaca. This allows consumers to pick out the exact types and amount of produce that they want.
“They grow more things than what I would buy in a store,” White said. “And I love not having to do another errand every week since I have a pickup box once a week.”
CSA is not just a service that helps people access to fresh fruits and vegetables. According to Molly Flerlage, the CSA Coordinator for Full Plate, CSA strengthens the relationship between the farmer and consumer.
“CSA is a way of connecting the community to their food and the farms that grow it,” she said. “And it works by creating a mutual agreement where members agree to pay for food at the beginning of the season and farmers agree to grow food to deliver a good, healthy, and delicious product on a weekly basis.”
She also said that CSA helps farmers be financially stable regardless of the success of the season, allowing farmers to have a guaranteed income and market for their products.
“[This] creates a ‘we’re in this together feeling,’ that no matter what, we will be delivering food to people regardless if it’s a bad season,” Flerlage said.Lucy Garrison, one of the owners of Stick and Stone Farm, knew she wanted to be a farmer by the age of ten.
“I started college studying anything I could about plants.”
Her husband Chaw, another owner of Stick and Stone Farm, founded the farm in 1995 with a group of friends with rented land from Newfield.
“When I met Chaw, I thought, ‘He’s doing it, and maybe I could do it, too,’” she said.
Garrison said she strives to tailor the crops she grows to what consumers want to eat.
“It focuses our work to know that we have this group of people that it’s our responsibility to grow food for,” Garrison said. “So we need to get to know them, keep really good records of what people take each year, and we shift what we’re growing to what they’re wanting to eat.”
A CSA subscription allows community members to receive fresh and organic produce regularly. Through initiatives such as the Healthy Food For All, CSA subscriptions have become more accessible. Healthy Food For All is a program that subsidizes CSA shares, which allows low-income households to be able to more easily afford CSA shares.
CSA shares, Flerlage said, also allow consumers to steer clear of potentially harmful chemicals since most are organic farms.
“Eating more vegetables contributes to better health in general,” Flerlage explained.
The Full Plate Farm Collective helps subscribers make full use of their vegetables by sending out recipes in their newsletter every single week. Signing up for CSA is simple, and subscribers are able to pay in full or with an installment plan.
Sarah Huang, Communications Intern. This is the latest installment of the Signs of Sustainability series produced by Sustainable Tompkins. For more information about the organization, visit their website at SustainableTompkins.org.
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