Top

Home Grown Goodness

by Jamie Plouff

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a connection with our neighbors, our community, and most importantly our land. Individuals meeting in Riverwest are trying to change that. Local residents and a group of farmers are joining together to bring fresh produce to the city, while building more sustainable communities.This initiative centers on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a relatively new movement linking cities to surrounding family farms and bringing wholesome food directly to your kitchen table. Farms involved in the CSA initiative are dedicated to keeping products fresh, local, and healthy for their consumers and the earth. Many CSA farms surround the Milwaukee area, in communities such as Belgium, Hartford, Plymouth, Waupun, and West Bend. Each farm raises their products using earth-friendly growing practices, usually organic and always chemical-free. How Do CSA Farms work? To become a shareholder in a CSA, one must first do some “shopping.” Each farm specializes in different types of products, such as produce, herbs, flowers, and meats, so it’s worth spending the time to find a farm that suits your taste (a list of Milwaukee area CSA farms is online at www.urbanecologycenter.org). A city resident then purchases a “share” in a local family farm and receives a portion of the season’s harvest. A share usually feeds a family of three or four or one vegetarian couple. Shares are typically paid for at the beginning of a growing season; this up-front payment provides the farmer with the money necessary to cover the cost of seeds, equipment, and for most CSA farms, deliveries. Generally, farms begin planting in early March and reap their first harvest in late May (although dates vary with each farm). Most of the farms make shareholder deliveries to various locations throughout Milwaukee and surrounding counties, usually beginning in early June. Why Buy Through CSA Farms? Awareness: As a consumer, you know exactly where and how your produce and other farm-raised goods have been grown. Relationships: A CSA farm provides an easy and effective way of re-establishing a relationship to the land and your community. Buying through a CSA farm allows the opportunity of purchasing healthy, tasty, eco-friendly products, as well as the chance to establish a relationship with your grower. Honesty: CSA farms are up-front about their growing methods and products used for their harvest. Cost-efficient: When you buy from a CSA farm, your money stays in the local economy and allows you to support farmers who utilize safe growing practices. Because you’re buying directly from the farmer, the products are about 20% less expensive than the same products purchased in the grocery store. Although all farms prefer to have full payment up front, most have flexible payment plans and are able to work with all budgets. Often, farmers are willing to make arrangements for partial shares, installment payments, the use of food stamps, and opportunities to work on the farm in exchange for shares (though these arrangements vary from farm to farm). Eco-friendly: Through their growing methods, CSA farms work to preserve the environment and the inherent biodiversity of our land. These farms work with nature, rather than against it. CSA farms are eco-friendly because they distribute locally, cutting down on the fossil fuels that are used to transport our typical supermarket fare, which travels an average of 1300 miles. Get Involved! If the idea of fresh, eco-friendly products entices your palette, get involved! CSA farms accept new shareholders in the spring so now is the time to contact a local farm (see list at www.urbanecologycenter.org). If you’d like to take an active role in promoting CSAs and local food systems in Milwaukee, contact Darrell Smith at the Urban Ecology Center, 414/964-8505, to learn more about the Milwaukee CSA Initiative.
by Jamie Plouff