SEATTLE, Wash. — With the 2021 growing season underway, the Eat Local First Collaborative announces the launch of its Meet Your CSA Farmer campaign now through March 31, 2021. The campaign features a new CSA Finder tool, integrated with Eat Local First and the Washington Food & Farm Finder to help consumers find CSA (community-supported agriculture) farms near them.
The CSA Finder allows consumers to customize their search with multiple filters including availability, content (i.e. vegetables, fruit, flowers, meat, dairy, eggs), season and distribution options like home delivery, neighborhood pick-up or on-farm pick-up.
Additionally, the campaign will feature a curated Meet Your CSA Farmer video series featuring local CSA farmers sharing how and why they grow, raise and harvest in Washington, and how consumers can purchase shares. The 15+ videos will run on the Collaborative’s Facebook and Instagram channels. Additional resources on how to make the most out of CSA shares include tips from local CSA farmers along with an enter-to-win for state residents to win $100 toward their CSA share of choice can be found here. Given the impact on local producers in Washington state as a result of COVID-19, consumer demand to purchase CSA shares is expected to remain strong.
“Our CSA expanded from approximately 175 boxes to 395 boxes in 2020,” says Michelle Tonnemaker, who runs the farm’s popular CSA program sourcing from Tonnemaker Hill Farm in Royal City (Grant County) and Tonnemaker Valley Farm in Woodinville (King County). “With social distancing becoming a new norm, more people are looking for ways to have deliveries to their homes and neighborhoods. I’ve already had many inquiries asking when our 2021 registration would start which we opened this past weekend. In just two days, sales have increased 10% compared to the same time last year.”
Also encouraging consumers to start the sign up process is Micha Ide, manager of Pierce County Fresh a member of the ELF Collaborative. “I have heard from many local CSA farms that shares are selling out quickly due to exceptional demand,” says Ide who is also co-owner and farmer at Bright Ide Acres in Orting, WA. “I encourage shoppers to use the CSA Finder and act swiftly to find their farm and sign up for a share right away. The good news is many farms are expanding their CSA memberships this season to meet the demand, so if you don’t find one right away try expanding your search area a little bit.”
Ide also says that when using the new CSA Finder tool, consumers can view more results by “just un-checking some of those boxes on the tool, then click submit again or reset to view. Farms are unique and may not fit inside your checkboxes.”
Consumers also can view approximately 230 CSA farms on the Washington Food & Farm Finder here.
With consumer interest in local food continuing to grow, a recent article in Forbes detailed a number of ways the global crisis has given consumers more reasons to eat local, quoting the World Economic Forum that has advised countries and consumers of the “post-COVID need to support local food systems with shorter, fairer and cleaner supply chains that address local priorities.”
However, the growth of CSA as a critical part of the local food infrastructure in Washington state has not been an overnight phenomenon, says Dr. Laura Lewis, Director of the WSU Food Systems Program, another ELF Collaborative member.
“For the past decade, options for CSAs have steadily increased across the Pacific Northwest, allowing consumers to purchase directly from a farmer (or fisherperson through CSFs). Over the past year, the model became even more important, as direct-to-consumer farmers saw subscriptions increase, and retail and wholesale producers pivoted to address local and regional food demand,” Lewis said. “It is great to see community members invest in farm and fish operations early in the season, providing capital that supports farming and in turn supports our health – both personal and community wide.”
Launched last November, the Eat Local First platform features the Washington Food & Farm Finder, a comprehensive mobile-friendly searchable database connecting consumers with approximately 1,700 local farms, markets, food businesses and local food resources. Free listings are available through 2021.
The Eat Local First Collaborative is a collective of food system organizations working together to facilitate connections between consumers and farm and food businesses statewide. Members include The Local Food Trust, Pierce County Fresh, Sustainable Connections, Tilth Alliance, Washington State University Food Systems, and Washington State University Regional Small Farms Program with anticipated future participation from additional partners.
— Tilth Alliance
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