April is a time of year when the soil begins to thaw, plants reawaken, and Seward Co-op hosts its annual Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Fair! For the past 17 years, we’ve invited regional farmers to come face-to-face with co-op owners and shoppers (before these farmers’ 16-hour workdays begin), to shake hands and discuss CSA offerings for the upcoming growing season. In exchange for a flat fee, CSA members receive a steady stream of fresh produce for 10–16 weeks. Your spring investment offers a unique lifeline of monetary support to local, small-scale growers, which helps farmers with early-season expenses such as buying seeds and paying farmworkers. This is an “everyone welcome!” event that benefits the greater community.
Purchasing a CSA connects us to both the bounty and the risk that local farmers balance in growing healthy, fresh food. Sharing the risk is part of what creates a sense of community among CSA members and the farmers. On the one hand, if a hailstorm takes out all the sweet corn, everyone is disappointed together, and together cheer on the thriving Brussels sprouts and leafy winter greens. On the other hand, if it’s a particularly good year, CSA members may reap the abundance of juicy heirloom tomatoes or snappy green beans. As dominant brands of food continue to become cheaper, over-packaged, increasingly devoid of flavor and nutrients, and more supportive of oppressive monopolies, our responsibility as Seward Co-op owners and shoppers to promote a healthy, local, and sustainable food system is heightened.
Though the CSA Fair does not directly generate sales for Seward Co-op, it does help foster and maintain vital connections among consumers and the folks that grow our food. When Seward Co-op’s community of owners, shoppers, and farmers work together, the co-op is a tool for social change and wealth generation, resulting in a healthier community. Although some farmers are able to use the CSA model as a long-term, sustainable approach to support their livelihood, CSAs can also be a first step for new farmers to launch and grow their business. In this way, Seward Co-op’s CSA Fair is a crucial incubator for small-scale, local farms in our community—including many new immigrant and minority-owned farm businesses. A number of CSA Fair participants over the years have also sold their produce at Seward Co-op.
The 17th annual CSA Fair is Saturday, April 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at a new location—Seward Co-op Creamery Café. Visit with area farmers, learn about different CSA programs and sign up for the share that’s right for you. Each grower offers a slightly different CSA depending on the farm’s length of season, items offered, cost and drop-off locations. It’s true there are many ways to support local agriculture. This year, stop by the Creamery Café to engage with fellow local food enthusiasts, meet local farmers face-to-face and become a seasonal investor in the products of their labor.