Occasionally, we are asked, “Why would I join your CSA? I like to shop at the farmers market.” Our answer, in a word, is symbiosis; a mutually beneficial relationship by nature. By making the decision to pre-pay for your fresh, wholesome, organic food at the beginning of the farming season, you gain a sense of calm from making a wise investment, it puts you at ease with healthy eating, and ultimately, you have contributed to stabilizing the local food economy. Our relationship with our CSA shareholders goes well beyond numbers on a spreadsheet. The true value is almost immeasurable.
To Start, an Investment
The seasonality of cropping systems in the Central Bluegrass calls for large cash outlays in late winter and early spring to bring the greenhouses to life and for the fertile fields to bear fruit. Seeds, rhizomes, potting media, propane, diesel, irrigation supplies and the willing hands to manage all the moving parts must be paid for long before the cash flow from vibrant farmers markets starts coming. Our CSA shareholders’ investment in us provides firm financial footing to begin the season.
Market farmers like us look very different in the eyes of agricultural-loan officers, compared to traditional, commodity corn and soybean farmers. Fourteen years ago, when we started our CSA program, our loan request may have been met with skepticism, snickers and a cold relationship over money. Today, with a strong CSA, not only do we avoid the interest payments of a loan, we avoid the hassle, documentation and headaches of servicing a loan. Rather, we have a warm and transparent relationship with our shareholders. We grow the food with each of you in mind.
Our Food Responsibility
With the awkward financial part out of the way, we can focus on growing your food. We can get the bulk discounts, we can lay in supplies ahead of the busy season, and we can be timely in our operations.The responsibility to fulfill our end of the bargain is ever present in the form of pride from the trust our CSA shareholders show in us. We move through the day with determination, our minds free to make clear decisions. Likewise, you can relax about where your food will come from. You get to revel in the anticipation of what each week’s CSA share might bring. You know your kale and your tomatoes are being tended to, awaiting just the right time to be harvested and delivered to you. Chances are, you will be paying more attention to the weather since your little plants are out there in it.
Your Food Relationship
When you are a CSA shareholder, how food is grown is more prominent in your mind. CSA shareholders are often more seasonal eaters, look for organic first when shopping, enjoy experimenting with new recipes, and play with food—more than some. Over time CSA shareholders learn to keep it simple and let the freshness and flavors of the foods speak for themselves.
While grocery shopping in the off season, you’ll find some of the produce looks different than ours because the growers selected varieties suited to their growing region and to meet specifications set by the wholesale buyer. We are not bound by such rigid market-grading standards, which is a good thing. Otherwise, you would never see the fingerling sweet potatoes or those cute baby cabbages. Our bell peppers may not all look exactly the same, but they all are fresh, local, organic, tasty and wholesome.
The most valuable part of our contract with shareholders is the shared relationship with food for health. One reason people join the Elmwood Stock Farm CSA is to learn more about how food is grown, not just who their farmer is. By investing in us, you can avoid genetically modified organisms lurking in the picture-perfect sweet corn, squash and zucchini, or avoid food grown with the release of systemic pesticides into the environment, much less those toxins being applied to the food itself. We open our doors for you to see, feel and smell how we grow your food. (Details about this year’s farm tours coming soon!) You can eat in peace because we are diligent about organic!
To Our Health
Rarely does a weekend go by that a customer does not come to the farmers market and say, “… My doctor told me to start eating what you have for sale… .” Let the food be thy medicine.
A recent University of Kentucky study shows CSA subscribers spend less time in a doctor’s office and lots less on pharmaceuticals than the average Kentuckian. We partner with several companies and institutions that subsidize employees’ CSA shares with our organic farm to promote healthy eating and, by extension, a healthy lifestyle, figuring it will pay dividends in the long run. (Contact us if you’d like to talk about a voucher program or employer-sponsored discount for your employees.)
Essentially, many of the top preventable causes of death are diet and lifestyle related. Be it sugar, bad fat, preservatives and additives, or residual toxins, you won’t find them in the food that Elmwood Stock Farm provides to you.
Local Food Economies
Your CSA investment places a stake in the ground, literally and figuratively. By uniting with other investors, there can be a shift in the local food economy. Your CSA dollars do not support GMO technologies or enable chemical dependency in foods. Collectively voting with your food dollars this way spurs better research, access to equipment and supplies, and economies of scale to produce food the way we do. The tentacles of your investment reach well beyond the farm gate. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy—a paradigm shift in the making.
Please don’t let “big distractions” cloud your vision on just how important and powerful a local food system is for all of us. Who knows what the future holds?
Early Season Start-Up
John chisel plowed the long field and part of the round field, awakening the sleeping giant we call soil. Greenhouses are starting to fill up with trays of seedlings. Boxes and bags of expensive organic seed are being delivered daily. The financial and moral support of our CSA members (and our winter farmers market customers, too!) puts a little pep in our step. Seems like a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship to us.
We hope you’ll consider joining us this year, helping us be better farmers. Please come see the action for yourself on one of our farm tours later on this summer, and for now, see you at the farmers market. —Mac Stone