Blog illustration woes aside, I want you to think about joining a CSA or two now that summer is here. If you believe in sustainable living and supporting your local farmers, a CSA is a great way to make your support tangible.
CSA stands for "community supported agriculture." Think of it as Kickstarter for meat and veggies. You purchase a "subscription" for a particular period of time, and once a month (or once a week, maybe), you receive a delivery of farm products that you've specified.
This time of year, many farms are selling subscriptions to vegetable CSAs, which is a great option for those who don't veggie garden for themselves. You'll pay a certain amount up front, and then once a week or so, you'll go to a pick-up point (maybe at a farmers' market) and get whatever the farmer has harvested in the past couple of days. If it is a good veggie year, you may get more; if it isn't, you may get less. And you may get some veggies you don't normally buy, which is fun.
What we belong to, however, is a meat CSA. I want to talk you through that process as a consumer, because it is a bit different, and I'll admit I felt a little confused at first until I got the hang of it. Now, I wouldn't consider any other way of stocking my freezer!
- Twice a year, we are asked for a subscription payment and the "level" of our support. We pay around $180 for a six month period, during which we receive 5 lbs. of ground beef and pork sausage each month. That works out to about $6 per pound, which is fantastic for animals raised with a sustainable rotational grazing method on a small farm that uses organic farming methods. I know that Mr. FC&G and I are minimizing exposure to killers like glyphosate and getting all the healthy goodness of meat from animals raised in pastures rather than on a CFO. And because I've seen the farm with my own eyes and look the farmer in the face at least once a month, I have a level of trust I wouldn't have otherwise.
- Each month, our farmer emails us a reminder of our pick-up point. For us, it's a set time on a certain day in a certain parking lot. Other customers will pick up at farmers' markets the farmer goes to.
- We also receive a discount on other farm products, and I can tell the farmer by email what I want: eggs, pork chops, roasts, or the like. So I know I have a set quantity of the basic meat we need each month, and then I can tailor our other purchases to my budget and our needs. Grilling season means time for some of his yummy pasture-raised pork chops. I also put in an order for some whole chickens to be harvested later in the summer, so he knows how many animals he needs to raise.
- That's the big benefit. The farmer gets some up-front payment to help him buy and raise expensive animals, and I get a measure of certainty about how much meat I'll have each month and the quality I can expect. I also know that the meat I'm getting is very fresh, sometimes only days after harvest.
I encourage you to look into the various CSA options available in your area, especially meat CSAs if you are a meat eater. For two people, that five pounds of meat each month are plenty to feed one meat-eater and one "flexitarian," and we feel good about making sure that we're supporting a family farm that treats its animals and the humans who consume them in the most kind, humane, and healthy way possible.
Fast: Picking up the delivery takes no more time than running to the store, and the purchase is as easy as writing a check twice a year. Very efficient.
Cheap: The prices are very competitive for sustainably-raised meat in this area.
Good: You can't put a value, however, on the benefit of directly supporting a farmer who is taking pains to provide the kind of product you want to put in your own body.