Though Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been available in our area for over 25 years, there are many people who don’t understand the benefits of CSA memberships.
CSA allows city residents to have direct access to high quality, fresh produce grown by local farmers. When you become a member of a CSA, you’re purchasing a “share” of vegetables from the farmer.
Community Supported Agriculture has many advantages. Not only does it connect the farmer with the consumer, but teaches the public about how their produce is grown. The locally-grown food also has many health benefits, which promotes a healthier lifestyle.
CSA subscribers pay a fee to a farmer at the beginning of the growing season. In return, they receive shares in the farmer’s crops, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. However, members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests.
The subscribers receive items on a regular basis throughout the farming season, which are dropped off at a predesignated date and time.
Drop-off locations in our area include Lion Bridge Brewing Company, NewBo City Market, and the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood.
A recent article in the Cedar Rapids Gazette lists a variety of CSAs throughout eastern Iowa.
Lion Bridge Brewing Company started last year as a drop off point for Bass Farms, which offers balanced shares, natural farming, and ready-to-eat veggies as part of their program.
According to Lion Bridge Brewing Co. co-owner, Ana McClain, more than 15 people signed up for the Bass Farms CSA drop-off last year. “We already have 25 signed up this year,” she said.
Lynette Richards, president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association, said Local Harvest is the CSA drop-off in their neighborhood, which drops off the parking lot behind 1003 6th Street SE.
“This will be their 18th year of offering terrific vegetables for many families,” said Richards. “They also offer seedlings to the Oakhill Community Garden and donate much of their abundance to families in need of fresh produce throughout the growing season.”
Richards said Local Harvest also offers free range (fresh, never frozen) turkeys for the holidays.
“Another benefit of participating in their CSA is access to Asian pears wonderful apples and fresh fruit jams and jellies.”
Richards added that Local Harvest gives generous portions, which they bring in coolers. “Subscribers take what they would like. She (co-owner, Susan Jutz) donates the rest to me so I can distribute it to people in need.”
Richards said another local venture is “Feed Iowa First,” located in the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood.
“It was started by Sonia Kendrick who is an Afghan war veteran,” said Richards. “She believes that no one should go to bed hungry.”
Richards said Sonia has arranged with 22 businesses and churches in the area to use their green space to ‘grow not mow.’ Approximately 50,000 pounds of produce was given away last year.
“The produce is cleaned and given to meals various groups, including homeless shelters and food pantries,” said Richards. “Each site raises a different crop and all of those crops are harvested and donated to people who would normally go without. There are 26,000 people in Linn County who go to bed hungry each day. That shouldn’t be happening.”
Richards said a community garden is available to anyone is need. Volunteers tend to the garden and take turns planting, watering, and weeding.
“Anyone can go and take whatever they need, any time of the day or night,” said Richards. The garden used to be located on 3rd Street, until the flood in June, 2008. Since then, it has been located at 6th Street and 10th Avenue.
“We have salsa-making parties, where the whole neighborhood gets together and works as a team, chopping and mixing,” said Richards. “It’s just a really fun neighborhood effort … everyone works together to get it done. That’s something our neighborhood can be really proud of.”
Another effort to provide fresh produce to people in need is through the nonprofit organization, Matthew 25. Volunteers care for an urban farm, which is located on the NW side of Cedar Rapids.
The organization is planning to move into the NewBo City Market in the next couple of months to sell their produce. Those who qualify can buy the produce for half the normal price.