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City, Food

Ever Consider Sharecropping?

Posted by Cat / March 26, 2006

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I'll concede that not everyone plans what to have for dinner a few days, let alone weeks, in advance. But what if you had the luxury of never having to figure out your grocery list ever again? What if you could have delicious, organic, nutrient-rich, so-fresh-it-hurts vegetables and fruits delivered to you? What if you simply let the farmer make all the decisions for you while you kick back with a beer on the porch, nibble on some sweet carrots or cherry tomatoes, and enjoy these precious days of sun to come?

Too good to be true? Not if you consider joining a CSA produce basket program. CSA, for those of you unfamiliar with the project, stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, members in a CSA farm will pay a certain dollar amount at the beginning of the growing season and then receive a share of the harvest each week throughout the season, which can extend from early May to late October. Most of these farms are organic and the cost of the vegetables is often much less than what you would pay (even for organic produce) in the supermarket for something that has been shipped over long distances and often possesses little to no taste.

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The CSA concept was started in Japan about 30 years ago by a group of women who, concerned with the increase in food imports and the decline in the farming population in their area, initiated this direct grower/consumer relationship. It is called "teikei" in Japan, which means "putting the farmers face on the food". The CSA movement spread to Europe, and then to North America. There are now over 1,000 CSA farms in the U.S and Canada, supporting anywhere from 15 to 300 member groups.

Here in Montreal, Equiterre supports a local CSA network of farms and you can search their website for farms that service your area. The farms deliver to various drop-off locations around the city and, in some instances, you can arrange to have your produce share delivered to your door. If you have the means, most CSA farms love visitors, and encourage their "shareholders" to get their hands dirty in the fields from time to time.

CSA farms often require payment at the beginning of the season in order to help with the costs of ordering seeds, preparing fields, and generally getting the farm up and running for the growing season. Many farms offer some form of instalment plan. Once paid, not only will you not have to think about what to eat for dinner, you don’t have to think about paying for it either.

Many Quebec CSA farms offer other farm products such as eggs, milk, cheese, honey, and meats. Some farms offer winter produce shares - vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, cabbages, squashes, onions and the like winter over quite well - so that you might enjoy local, organic produce all year long! Winter shares often include such added bonuses as dried beans, dried tomatoes, jams, and popcorn! But, um, no. The aforementioned beer is not included in any of the CSA shares. Yet.

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