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Thoughts on CSA "authenticity"

This is something that has been nagging at me for awhile, and I'd love your thoughts. I've been part of a CSA for years that started as supporting a local (Seattle area) farm. It has grown considerably, and my weekly CSA box is no longer restricted to that farm and farms nearby, but this last week of 12 box items, three were "local-ish", one was from Oregon (not actually close) and a whopping eight (or 3/4) were from S. California -- well over 1,000 miles away (and, FWIW, local produce is rolling in like mad at the Farmers Markets, so this isn't driven by seasonal necessity). I guess what bothers me about this is that I'm not really supporting local farmers any longer but rather the CSA itself seems to be turning into more of an "organic produce delivery" system than what I envision for a CSA. So, am I off base? Am I overly sensitive? I know lots and lots of Hotline readers use CSAs, so what are your thoughts?

asked by SeaJambon about 4 years ago
7 answers 1177 views
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added about 4 years ago

The only CSA I used was a Mennonite coop and very local. The one you belong to seems to be stretching the definition and I don't see the point. Shop around because there must be more local organizations. The whole point is to eat local and in season. If produce is coming several hours away in trucks, you might as well just shop at whole foods. Or give it up and go to the farmers market. I really like the ritual of checking out my favorite farmer stands every week and seeing what is in season.

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Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added about 4 years ago

I agree with lloreen, the only reason I join a CSA is to support local farmers and if it is no longer supporting local then it's no longer a CSA by definition. They are really stretching it and you hit the nail on the head, it's like a organic produce delivery service.

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added about 4 years ago

With the Ballard and U-District farmers markets being year round now (as well as Pike Place if you can deal with the crowds) you have multiple options now to shop local if you drop the CSA. Seems weird that so much of your box would be out of state at this time of year.

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Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added about 4 years ago

This is a really interesting question - I live on the east coast and see the issue here as well. Without having done any homework, I don't know if some CSAs feel forced to do it, to stay afloat financially. I guess one approach is to ask a CSA manager if you have an option to receive only local goods. Food for thought - I'll be asking my CSA's manager next time I'm there. Great question.

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added about 4 years ago

The CSA I belong to is 90 miles away. I've been to their farm and everything they grow is in my box weekly. I'm lucky enough to have a few farmer's market's locally, one less than a mile away on Sundays, but I'm starting to have the same concerns when I see that some of the *farms* are over 350 miles away. Not my idea of local, but neither is my Whole Foods!
Until I can grow my own, I do the best I can!

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added about 4 years ago

I think it's definitely worth speaking with your CSA. I have seen this with some of the CSA's that deliver to the NYC and long island areas, but not to the extent you describe. Should you speak with your CSA, I'd be interested in hearing their feedback

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added about 4 years ago

That's funny--I've never even seen a CSA that does that. I've always lived in relatively small towns, though, so maybe my experience is unusual. It makes sense for farmers to pool their resources via the CSA, but I can't imagine why you would have non-local produce in June, when everything seems to be bursting with fruit.

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