Saturday I started my countdown. Ten days until we start our 2016 CSA program. It’s fixin’ to get real on this farm!
We started our farm in 2009 with our first strawberry crop, and in 2010, we bought the land we have now from my husband’s family. We were looking for things to do to supplement the strawberries and thought, a ‘fruit stand’ as we call them here in eastern NC would be a good idea. We tried it, but after two weeks of slow business and paying overhead we weren’t making back we had to change it up. We took a look at our business and thought about what would really fit. We didn’t have a great location for a fruit stand, and there is a lot of competition in our area with folks who have been doing them for years, but we still had people contacting us for fruits and vegetables. After going to a NC Agritourism Association meeting, we decided on a CSA, and in 2011, we launched it.
CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and we look at it like the customer is investing in our farm. You buy shares, just like you would with a company, but you get a weekly box of seasonal fruits and vegetables as a dividend instead of money. In our program, you can have your box delivered for a fee, or pick up at our farm or get your friends together to set up a pickup location for free. For us, it’s a win-win. It’s a guaranteed market for our produce, it’s something to get people coming out to the farm through the summer, and it helps us connect on a different level with our customers. That’s the most important factor to us, that connection to our customers. We see them and their families every week for twenty weeks. We see them have babies, and we see those babies grow up. That’s one of the most rewarding things about this program, and having the kind of farm we do in general. We get to meet all these wonderful friends that we see grow and change every year.
That’s what you get when you buy local, especially from a local farm. There’s a huge debate in the food and agriculture community about organic vs. conventional, GMO vs. non-GMO, but in our opinion regardless of those factors, locally is best. When you buy from a local farmer, you’re getting produce that has been grown and picked right here, not shipped from states away. To us, what’s the difference in buying organic vs. conventional when you’re buying from a huge commercial organic farm in California over a small local farmer right here? You’re probably buying from a neighbor or someone you know, and they’re much more likely, to be honest with you about what you’re getting because they’ll see you tomorrow at Wal-Mart, or at the gas station, or at school when you’re dropping your kids off. It’s also an investment in your community. None of us are doing this to get rich. We’re just trying to make a life for ourselves and when you support a local business of any kind that’s what you’re helping us do, and we pay it forward by buying from local businesses too. If you’re not already involved, you might want to look around your community for a CSA or a local farm to support. If you’re in NC, try here for a directory of farms across our state. If you’re in a different state, try your local extension office or search your state’s department of agriculture for a link.
So next Tuesday is D-Day for us. Our 2016 program begins. It’s our 5th anniversary. We’ve learned so much in those five years, but I know we still have a lot to learn. We have a record number of participants signed up, and we still have a week to go. We’re getting excited! It’s going to be a great summer!
Emily is a full-time mom, wife, and farmer trying to run her own agritourism business. Her goal is to educate kids about where their food comes from and help her community and to have a good time while she does it. You can read more of her musings at The True Adventures of Berry Girl and check out the website for her agritourism business Odom Farming Inc.