Monday, May 7, 2012

Produce Police

Fresh & Local CSA is one of few area farms that sells all food strictly from their property.

Market season is in full swing! CSA shares are being snatched up! But are you buying what you think you're buying?  Back in November, I addressed the concerns regarding fake CSAs and the inclination for some farmers to sell products that do not, in fact, come from their property.

Is it OK for a farmer to sell squash from a wholesaler if it is squash that his consumers want? Do you agree with putting money in a farmer's pocket for items that he never worked to grow? Perhaps there is a place for all of this duplicity that we are not thinking about.

Farming is hard. And that's putting it simply.

I think about the farmer whose property has been reaped and sown through a multitude of generations since the 1800s. (Ironically, a time when farming remained relatively untouched by agri-chemical industrialization.) Now he is at the mercy of a debilitating economy and government subsidies that threaten to pull the cash plug if he does not grow what they tell him to grow. And now, NOW he is faced with a new kind of demand from consumers like me who insist on a product chemically untouched & untainted, grown by his own hands & not the hands of someone another continent away. Yet he must contend with precarious Mother Nature & her occasional stink-bug swarm, horn-worm blight or plain ole drought, & still make up the cost to run a farm, feed a family & pay the bills.

Farming is hard.

But I still assert that if we as consumers do not create the demand for unseasonable produce or products grown 100 miles away, we can change how farmers do business, and in the great grand scheme of things maybe even change the way our government does business with farmers.

I know, I'm an idealist. I get that. But change has to start somewhere. So ask questions at your market tables this summer. Request a farm tour before you invest in a CSA. Rely on resources that act as watchdog groups to help sort the wheat from the chaff. Most importantly, insist on transparency. Demand that if a farmer MUST sell off-property produce or meat, that he label it as such.

Farming is hard. Honesty, on the other hand, should not be.

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