My First Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program
By Neenah Payne
My First Indoor Gardening Steps explains that I started growing food in 2015 with an AeroGarden and some sprouts which I documented in my Urban Gardens Revolution site. My next step was to get five Edible Garden herbs from my grocery store: Basil, Parsley, Mint, Rosemary, and Sage which I grow in my dining room where they get full sun only for about 90 minutes in the afternoon this time of year.
When the leaves of my Sage began to droop, I was delighted to find the article Social Media’s Most-Watched Garden Personality: Meet Laura LeBoutillier of Garden Answer. In Top 6 Struggles of Growing Herbs Indoors (w/ solutions), Laura recommends starting with the Edible Garden plants Basil, Parsley, Mint, Rosemary, and Bay — and warns that Sage can be difficult!
The Indoor Garden Led Grow Light: House Plant Growing Lamps Growing System with Timer which costs about $30 helped my Sage perk up in just a few days!
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MVG Community Garden
In early May, I joined the Myrtle Village Green (MVG) Community Garden which is about a 15-minute walk from my apartment in Brooklyn, NY — across the street from my Post Office.
“Myrtle Village Green is the only community garden, outdoor learning space, and secular gathering place of its kind in this part of Bed-Stuy. We feed the neighborhood with 1.3 tons of affordable, nutrient-dense food per season, and more than 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables from around the world. Our compost volunteers have diverted more than 36,000 pounds of food waste and trained dozens of community members about how to compost at home.”
When I got my garden key in April, I met one of the founders who teaches at an elementary school in the area. She has a plot for the kids to learn to garden. It would be a very good idea for all schools from Pre-K through grad school to have students learn how to grow food. That ability is a key to personal and national security. Food Is A Double National Security Issue shows that 40% of Americans waiting in food lines for as long as 12 hours had never been food insecure before 2020.
I will attend my first Community Garden meeting on June 13. Since the waiting list for plots is long, I may not get one this year — or maybe even next year. That’s OK because I would not know what to plant or how to do it yet. I still have a lot to learn! Some of the food in the garden is being grown in trays.
Other foods are grown in the ground and there are lots of foods growing in raised beds.
High-Performance Garden Show
“This year’s High-Performance Garden Show focuses on stopping the garden struggle and on manufacturing your health. We hope to change the way people are eating to the root of our degenerative diseases and start to heal people, to show people how easy it is to grow their own food, add enjoyment to their nutrient-dense life and give them skills to pass down to the next generation.”
Lynn Gillespie is the author of High Performance Gardening: The most fun, productive and organic gardening experience you will ever have!
My Co-op’s CSA Program
In Ice Age Farming – “Solutions Watch” with James Corbett, Christian Westbrook (The Ice Age Farmer) recommended joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
I had resisted joining my co-op’s CSA program because I didn’t like the idea of getting vegetables and/or fruits I hadn’t chosen. However, when the severe drought hit California in June, I knew it was time to make that move since California grows over a third of our vegetables and supplies two-thirds of the fruits and nuts in the US. So, getting any vegetables is a LOT better than getting none! Locally-grown food is also much better than food shipped across the country.
On June 11, I called The Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op and signed up for a small share which I will pick up Wednesday evenings in the Community Room of my building. The CSA began with just six farms in 2006, but now has over 120. The website is impressive. Each member of the co-op is required to sign up for two volunteer shifts over the course of the season which runs from April till October. A volunteer shift involves a one-hour commitment to sit in the Community Room so members can pick up shares.
Joining the CSA felt like another small step toward growing my own food. It makes me feel much more appreciative of the work farmers do and more aware of the many difficulties they are facing now. Being a member of the CSA also makes me feel more connected to the land, to the Earth — more rooted, more grounded. I like knowing more about where my food is coming from.
Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-operative
“We, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative (LFFC), are a non-profit organic cooperative of small-scale, Certified Organic farms in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Our, now 100+, family farmers originally began as a handful of families who’d realized they were traveling to and competing in the same marketplaces. Rather than continue to compete, the farmers decided to work together as a cooperative, share their resources to better serve their goals, and sustain their livelihood. As always, LFFC farmers continue to focus on creating nutrient dense, hyper local, healthy, and unsurpassed quality produce from our highly maintained and enriched Lancaster County soils.
All LFFC member farms are 100% Certified Organic or chemical-free. Each farm keeps meticulous records of all activities on all of their land and growing fields, from weed control to seed suppliers, compost methods, and crop rotation. Aside from the organic certification agencies, LFFC, as a cooperative, has very strict standards regarding land management and animal welfare. Our farmers regularly build up their soil, test plants, rotate crops, and practice pasture maintenance to sustain a healthy environment for our products.
Unique to our CSA, compared to, say, a single, small farm CSA, is the variety of vegetable items we can offer our share holders throughout the season thanks to our extensive base of farmers! Additionally, all thanks to our large farmer base, the risks we mention and you may hear about elsewhere when considering a CSA membership, are much lower because of our large (100+!) farmer base. For example, if one farmer is experiencing tomato blight it is easier for us as a cooperative to manage this for your CSA by looking to a number of other farmers who may also be growing tomatoes.
(LFFC) is a non-profit organic farmer’s cooperative of over 100 family farmers headquartered in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We focus on creating healthy high quality foods from our highly maintained and enriched soils on our small-scale family farms. LFFC provides fresh, certified organic fruits, vegetables, and other farm fresh products through a subscription program also known as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. CSA members commit to support LFFC farmers for the entire growing season by paying for their share of the harvest in the winter and early spring. The farmers are able to purchase supplies in the winter and start their crops in early spring, they repay the shareholders in fresh, organic, seasonal produce.
CSA enables you to keep local sustainable farms and local food safe for future generations. It’s a great legacy. The produce sold through LFFC is certified organic unless otherwise noted. We support farmers that are looking to make their farms sustainable. The animal products that you purchase are from small family farms with small herds and flocks. These animals always have access to pasture and enjoy the freedom of foraging through the grasses with the earth under their feet. When you purchase LFFC products you can be confident that you will receive the freshest farm products, raised humanely, with consideration for the land, animals and people. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative is owned by the farmers working in cooperation with each other to bring you healthy, quality foods. Thank you for helping to create sustainable communities!”
2021 Summer Shares
The 2021 Summer Shares are shown at 2021 Summer Shares | Lancaster Farm Fresh.
Small Vegetable Share
A Small Vegetable Share would have cost $450 when the Spring season started six weeks ago. However, I paid only $340. The share includes four vegetables which are delivered to the Community Room in my building which I will pick up every Wednesday evening. It’s a bit of an adjustment to eat whatever I’m given rather than to buy what I want. However, this organic food is much more farm fresh even than the food I’ve been getting from my organic health food store.
“Our Small Product Share contains 4 different varieties of veggies each week. It’s great for anyone living solo or for someone whose household doesn’t eat a lot of veggies. Also a good choice for anyone who has never participated in a CSA and is worried about having too many veggies! You can always call the Coop to upgrade to a medium or large share.
We love planning ahead and learning new recipes, too. You will receive a newsletter from us about 2-3 days before you are to pick up your share. Newsletters include a list of vegetables our farmers predicted will be in your share based on their crops to-date so you can plan accordingly, and we also include a few recipes in each that we center on the more unique vegetables in each share to help streamline your meal planning. We love cooking at home, too, and we know sometimes recipe searching takes tons of time! We also include periodic storage tips as well as a get-to-know-your-farmer profile articles! Please look for these great resources of information! We hope you have as much fun reading them as we have publishing each one! Also, to build community we love sharing members’ recipes in newsletters, too! If you have a tried-and-true or heirloom recipe you’d like to share for one or more of the veggies, please share away!
Fruit is not typically included in our produce shares; however, when in abundance, it may be included! For example, if our farmers have a surplus of watermelons, produce share members may receive a watermelon in their share that week. One of our most popular shares is the fruit share which typically begins the 7th week of the summer season. Those who have purchased the fruit share will receive 2-3 fruit types or value-added fruit products in each weekly share delivery. Fruit types are also wholly dependent on our region’s weather patterns, late spring yields sweets like cherries, strawberries, rhubarb (we argue this is a fruit for fruit’s sake!) blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. Yum! As the temperatures rise and the season progresses so does the life stage of melons!
Prepare to be delighted by canary melons, French heirloom cantaloupes, seedless watermelons, yellow watermelons, and other exciting heirloom varieties! Like usual, what goes up must come down—including temperatures—typically right around the time we’re ready! As those summer temperatures cool, the fruit shares begin changing, too. We begin receiving grapes, kiwi berries (one of our favorites), pears and apples all sourced from our farmers and partners—both local and regional. Fruits are either Certified Organic or raised with the environment and consumer-sensitive Integrated Pest Management (IPM) standard.”
Prepare For Coming Food Shortages
The articles were published on the Natural Blaze site which carries articles by a wide variety of authors including Curtis Stone, The Urban Farmer, who warns about coming food shortages and provides tips on how to grow lots of food on small plots. See his book The Urban Farmer.
Film: Regenerative Agriculture — A Paradigm Shift
Dr. Zach Bush points out that we are in the Sixth Great Extinction now and human survival depends on the urgent restoration of our soils to provide the nutritious foods we need. Dr. Bush connects not only American’s health, but our financial and political survival to the health of our soil. Russia has committed to being fully organic by 2025. Our reliance on GMO foods is causing our healthcare budget to bankrupt us. He explains that converting to organic farming is not sufficient because most organic farmers in the US are forced to till the soil — which is just as destructive as GMO pesticides!
When farmers switch to Regenerative Agriculture, their yields rise from $40 to $500-$900 per acre and they see improvements the first year! Dr. Bush partners with The Soil Health Academy which educates farmers on how to convert to Regenerative Agriculture. Already a million acres in the US have been regenerated. His goal now is to convert five million more acres. Farmer’s Footprint helps support farmers in the transition process.
Dr. Bush says on his site:
“My work is dedicated to the health of humanity and the planet we call home. It is critical that our pursuit of optimal health and longevity begin with an effort toward a collective rise in consciousness such that we would begin to thrive within nature, instead of fighting that nature that is life itself. My experience as a physician specializing in internal medicine, endocrinology and hospice care with a focus on the microbiome as it relates to health, disease, and food systems led me to found *Seraphic Group and the non-profit Farmer’s Footprint to develop root-cause solutions for human and ecological health.
My passion for education reaches across many disciplines, including topics such as the role of soil and water ecosystems in human genomics, immunity, and gut/brain health. My education has highlighted the need for a radical departure from chemical farming and pharmacy, and ongoing efforts to create a path for consumers, farmers, and mega-industries to work together for a healthy future for people and planet.”
Dr. Bush says about the free film on his site Farmer’s Footprint: A Path To Soil Health and Food Independence:
“This film features the trials, learnings and victories of the four generation Breitkreutz family from Stoney Creek Farm transitioning from conventional farming to regenerative agriculture in Redwood Falls, Minnesota. Using conventional methods they saw their soils degrade and their input costs rise every year. Transitioning to regenerative practices has helped their row cropping operation and significantly reduced the input cost for their cattle. This film tells the story of how they did it.”
Grow A Garden T-Shirt
Top image credit: Stephanie Leach
Neenah Payne writes for Natural Blaze and Activist Post