By Lynette Johnson *
When my career with the Society of St. Andrew began, it sent me to Nashville, where I oversaw produce recovery and distribution throughout Tennessee and Alabama. While I was there, it appeared that I engaged in a rather frequent clandestine activity:
Every other Thursday afternoon, I headed to a parking lot behind an abandoned hospital in East Nashville. I met a man in a truck, who handed me a crate. We talked for a few minutes, I thanked him, packed the crate in my car, and headed home.
What kind of transaction was it? Perfectly legal, remarkably safe, and delightfully local—not really clandestine at all!
It was thrilling to open my crate and find the fresh, healthy treasures carefully packed inside by the Dysinger family for members of their CSA … gorgeous fruits and vegetables harvested from their farm in Williamsport, Tennessee, usually that very morning!
CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture. City-dwellers (like me) commit to partner with a farm family, by signing up for a regular share of the farm’s produce. For a season, usually 14-18 weeks, CSA members receive a portion of whatever is ripe and ready on the farm that week: melons, potatoes, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, herbs, and so much more. The farm sets convenient pick-up points, where you go to receive your share. Mine happened to be behind the abandoned hospital!
By being part of a CSA, I knew that I would always have fresh, locally grown food to eat. I knew I’d be stretched to taste and prepare a few new things. And the Dysingers, of Bountiful Blessings farm, knew that they could count on my up-front payment to meet their farm obligations and expenses.
It was a great way to eat healthier, to be more connected to the earth, to eat “closer to home,” and to see that my food dollars went directly to the people producing my food. The Dysingers offered recipes and cooking advice, they shared “extra” helpings when they had them, and they even opened their farm from time to time, for CSA members to come out and visit—and lend a hand!
Depending on where you live, you can likely find one or more CSA options nearby. Most CSAs offer fruits and vegetables during a long summer season. Increasingly, though, you can find tailored CSAs—just berries, just meat, even just flowers! Some offer bread, egg, and jams add-ons, and some offer fall and winter options as well. The cost? $15-25 per week, on average, based on the size share you choose.
Family farms are, unsurprisingly, run by families. Families who respect the earth, love what they do, and work ridiculously hard to help the earth produce the very best food possible. Shopping at a farmers market or, better yet, committing to a CSA is a great way to put roots down in your community and to help keep family farms strong.
To find a CSA near you:
Check online, searching for CSA and your location (localharvest.org is a good starting place).
Ask at your local farmers market, farmers cooperative, or agriculture extension agency.
* Lynette Johnson is SoSA’s Director of Church Relations