“Free Farm Share” Program: Our first Season!

This summer and fall, AdkAction sponsored 23 North Country families to participate in season-long Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share programs at no cost. In partnership with White Rainbow Farm in Peru and Tangleroot Farm in Essex, we provided local foods to these households (75 individuals) for 20 weeks in our first season.

Typically, season-long CSA farm shares require up-front payment at the start of the growing season. By purchasing a farm share at the start of the season, participants accept any risks that might come up that year– whether it’s a drought, tomato blight, or a pesky insect destroying all of a certain crop. In exchange, CSA members receive a generous weekly portion of all the food grown on the farm. 

CSA shares support farmers, keep food dollars local, encourage sustainable agriculture, and build community. However, households that are unable to afford the initial investment are left out. One participant commented that, “I’ve always wanted a CSA but could never afford one.” The lump sum payment, on top of the already high cost of local foods, creates a barrier to access for low or middle income families. Free Share, part of our Fair Food Pricing program, removes that barrier entirely by providing shares to qualifying households for free, and also partners with the farms to provide home delivery of the shares when participants have no transportation. 

In addition to helping our neighbors eat local for less, the program has also created a growing community, for both the participants and the farmers. One participating family started volunteering at their partnering farm on weekends. Another participant with a talent for canning taught some of the farmers how to can and preserve vegetables. Farmers said they were grateful to be able to reach the whole community, especially year-round residents. Everyone, participants and farmers alike, seemed to mention the joy in seeing a familiar face week to week and be reminded, especially in pandemic times, that they are part of a community.

As we reflect and think about our hopes to scale up the program next year, we asked everyone, Was it successful? Would you do it again? Here’s what some of our participants had to say:

“Thanks so much for setting up the farm share program. It is so awesome to see locally-produced food be affordable to myself and community members. I greatly appreciate the work you are doing! Truly incredible.”

“I am very thankful for all you do- the people at the farm are very nice and helpful. They make me feel comfortable and always answer my questions on different veggies.”

With overwhelmingly positive feedback from both participants and farmers in our first year, we look forward to expanding the program in 2022. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor who has pledged to match every donation to the program dollar-for-dollar, up to $25,000, we hope to be able to scale the program to serve 100 households next season! In early 2022 we will launch a fundraising campaign with the goal of unlocking the matching challenge! 

 

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