Portland, Oregon resident Hannah Treuhaft keeps a small flock of chickens in her backyard. She buys organic produce, and through her job at Plate and Pitchfork, she coordinates dinner events at local, sustainable farms and wineries around Oregon. Until recently, Treuhaft kept her love of healthy, sustainable food and her involvement in Jewish life at a distance. But that’s about to change.
Like a growing number of Jews across the country, Treuhaft now belongs to a Jewish Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. A CSA pairs up a local farmer with a group of people who pre-pay to receive an entire growing seasons’ worth of that farmers’ vegetables. Once a week during the season, the farmer drives a freshly harvested bounty to a central location (most often a school, church, or community center), where members come to pick it up.
Everybody Wins (and Eats)
CSA farmers benefit enormously from cultivating a stable and committed customer base. And because member payments arrive in the winter and spring before the growing season starts, they receives a stream of income right as they are fixing their tractors and buying seeds–in other words, when they need it most. Members also benefit by the regular influx of local, mostly organically grown vegetables and the opportunity to meet the person who grows their food. Most CSAs also plan day trips to the farm, which only deepens members’ awareness of and connection to their food source.
The CSA model, which first launched in the United States about 25 years ago (though the idea already existed in Europe), has rocketed in popularity over the last five years. As the idea took off, farmers have started to move beyond vegetables, partnering with other farms and food purveyors to offer fruit, eggs, flowers, dairy, meat, and even wheat berries which consumers can grind into flour. Spin-off business have also sprouted up in support of the CSA, including home chef services like Sweet Deliverance, which pick up members’ weekly share of produce, cooks it on their behalf, and delivers the local meals right to their door.
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