Chicago CSA

Never heard of a C.S.A. Farm, but the idea sounds incredibly intriguing. Michael Pollan has more details:

Michael Pollan - On The Table What’s for Dinner?
One of the biggest changes I’ve made in my eating was to join a C.S.A. farm. C.S.A. stands for community supported agriculture, an awkward name for an elegant scheme. C.S.A. farms are a little like magazines: you “subscribe” to them, on an annual or monthly basis, and in exchange for a fee ($60 a month in my case), you receive a weekly box of produce, which you can pick up either from the farm or from a drop-off location or, for an additional fee, have delivered to your door.
... (To find a C.S.A. near you, go to or the Department of Agriculture’s C.S.A. Web page; see also the other Web resources listed in my earlier post, “Food From a Farm Near You.”) ...America’s first C.S.A. was started in the 1980’s in Western Massachusetts; the concept began in Europe a few years before that.

I glanced at our local list and recognized a few farm names from the farmers market we frequently go to. I will try to convince D (who probably won't need much convincing) that the $30-40 month is money well spent. In a different era of my life, I would have had the time to also do some work on the farm (usually get a lower price if you actively participate in the farming process), but am really too busy to commit to that, even though my body and spirit aches for some non-urban activities.

Pollan goes on:

Actually the folks at Full Belly [the farmers Mr. Pollan purchased from] — who include a helpful and nicely written newsletter, The Full Belly Beet, with each box — sounded a little apologetic about some of those late winter, rutabaga-heavy boxes. But as the newsletter explained, the winter rains were brutal and unremitting this year clear through April, delaying spring planting and devastating some of the crops, including the peaches and strawberries. So we got more root crops than usual and, to make up for it one week, a gorgeous bunch of flowers.

But that’s the point: as “shareholders” in a C.S.A., we share equally in the farm’s bounty and shortfalls, its triumphs and disasters. The word shareholder is not empty in this case; certainly it more closely describes the relationship we’ve entered into than the words “consumer” and “producer” would. As John Peterson, the C.S.A. farmer from Illinois who is profiled in the new documentary “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” describes it, the “C.S.A. is a new socioeconomic form in which the farm and consumer enter into a sort of partnership, an alliance to take care of each other’s needs.” For the farmer, the C.S.A. relationship means a reliable cash flow through the growing season (with money up front to help pay for planting) and shareholders who share in the risks and rewards of an enterprise that will always be at the mercy of the weather. For the shareholder, it means the freshest possible food received at the end of the shortest possible food chain.

More important, the C.S.A. reconnects you as an eater with the source of your food, offering a vivid reminder that, whatever we eat, we eat by the grace of farms and farmers, of the land, the weather and the season — not supermarkets. The C.S.A. means I also eat in the knowledge that I’m doing my small bit to defend a gorgeous patch of bottomland along Cache Creek outside the tiny town of Guinda from the oncoming wave of sprawl that threatens to engulf California’s entire Central Valley into one big, wall-to-wall housing development.

Eating from the C.S.A. box constitutes the very opposite of industrial eating, that sort of unconscious consumption based on our desire to eat whatever we want whenever we want it — tomatoes in January, strawberries in October — food that’s been cleaned, cut up, processed, cooked, everything but chewed and digested for us. That food chain offers convenience, sure, yet in the end it depends on ignorance — of the cost of eating that way, and of all the labor, energy and technology it requires. To eat from the C.S.A. box, with its newsletter chronicling the week’s doings on the farm, is to eat in a fuller knowledge of all that’s involved in getting food to our plates, including the necessity, and pleasure, of cooking. (Most C.S.A. newsletters offer recipes.) There’s a lot more going on than the exchange of money for food.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on June 8, 2006 11:22 AM.

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