COLD SPRINGS, N.Y. — Creative Soil Arrangements. Containers Stuffed Amply. Consume Something Awesome! What does CSA mean to you? The acronym for Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA) can symbolize different things for different people, but one thing is for certain, CSA is about building communities around local farms and mutually beneficial relationships with local farmers.
CSA farmers in the Hudson Valley are ideally situated and dedicated to improving public health by providing more local residents with access to high-quality food produced in their own communities. According to a recent survey conducted by Glynwood, if CSA farms in this region were to produce at their full capacity, there would be approximately 15,000 CSA shares grown, likely more than that, representing an estimated increase of at least 5,100 shares. In addition to advocating for health and wellness, Hudson Valley CSA farms are bolstering our regional agricultural economy and helping to distinguish our cultural identity.
Hudson Valley CSA Coalition
Although their financial viability relies on it, owners of small- to mid-size farms practicing a CSA business model are often pressed for time, expertise or resources to effectively market their shares and expand their customer base. Survey responses said this is one of our farmers’ biggest challenges; a problem they must solve if they are to be successful. In response, Glynwood has helped to galvanize and launch the Hudson Valley CSA Coalition: a network of 70 farms across 11 counties in the region, and growing.
“What we’ve gleaned from our early convenings and survey is that CSA farms describe a lack of awareness and participation from regional residents, often their own neighbors. They have expressed a desire to have more diversity in their memberships and want to reach people who may be underserved,” said Sara Grady, Vice President of Programs, Glynwood. “Glynwood is catalyzing this nascent CSA network, supporting its creation and cultivating leadership among early participants, so that once it is formed, the projects can be carried forward by farmers and CSA members themselves.”
The conversation began in February 2014 at a meeting of Hudson Valley CSA farmers and producers, at which the need for more effective marketing was identified as a shared concern. The first survey Glynwood conducted among CSA farmers and food producers was completed in early 2016. The majority of respondents said that explaining the value proposition of CSA membership to potential customers and capacity for adequate marketing were the main barriers to accomplishing their goals1.
In the first of a three-year project, Glynwood convened a leadership committee of seven farmers and farm advocates to identify strategies that will collectively expand and diversify membership, support farm profitability and engage more residents in CSA. These leaders include: Audrey Berman (Long Table Harvest), B.R. Shute (Hearty Roots Community Farm), Nichki Carangelo and Faith Gilbert (Letterbox Farm), Jody Bolluyt (Roxbury Farm), Jarrett Nelson (Glynwood), Leon Vehaba (Poughkeepsie Farm Project). Kiera Mulvey Bulan, former Executive Director the FairShare CSA Coalition in Madison, WI, an established and successful CSA coalition that provided inspiration for the emergent Hudson Valley CSA Coalition, is consulting on the project and participating in the leadership committee.
“The Hudson Valley has a wealth of CSAs and the market for local food is taking off here,” said Leon Vehaba. “People are eager to eat locally grown products, and to connect to the community that CSA membership provides. The Coalition directory makes it much easier for farmers to connect with potential members, but only if CSA producers participate, which is why I encourage my fellow farmers to join.”
The first phase culminates this month with the launch of the Hudson Valley CSA Coalition website, a searchable directory of regional CSA farms with a diverse array of vegetable, meat, dairy and botanical offerings. Having established an identity for the Coalition, the leadership team is eager to expand with additional projects to support Hudson Valley farms, including a second survey this year that will follow this first collective effort at targeted marketing.
The Hudson Valley CSA Coalition is promoting sign-ups for regional CSA farms with a focus on February 24 as “Sign Up Day,” building on a National CSA Sign-Up Day grassroots effort by Small Farm Central. Playing on the CSA acronym, the campaign is raising awareness for CSA as an experience and an important agricultural business model that differs from other modes of purchasing groceries. The hope is that over time the Coalition’s outreach efforts will encompass at least 100 farms in the region and engage communities not currently reached consistently by local farms or CSA. Visitors to the website who register for shares with Coalition farms during the month of February are eligible to win gift certificates to restaurants that are recognized for their “farm to table” ethos, including Crabtree’s Kittle House, CrossRoads Food Shop, Gaskins, Le Express Bistro, Restaurant North and The Village TeaRoom.
The Coalition’s sign-up event is the first of several initiatives that will mutually benefit farmers and consumers, making the point of discovery and purchase more direct. The project, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service, also includes a series of CSA “fairs” in key markets and a traveling presentation to be delivered by CSA farmers for further reaching consumers at the local level about the benefits of buying agricultural products directly from farms.
Glynwood’s mission is to ensure that the Hudson Valley is a region defined by food, where farming thrives. We farm, train farmers, promote regional food, and collaborate to realize our vision. We work to advance regenerative agriculture that benefits the natural environment, energizes local economies, enhances human health and strengthens rural communications. Our vision is a Hudson Valley defined by food: where farmers prosper, food entrepreneurs succeed, residents are nourished and visitors are inspired. www.glynwood.org.
For press inquiries, please contact: Sommer Hixson; email@example.com; (845) 265-3338 x 102 hudsonvalleycsa.org/
1. Among 62 farmers who were surveyed, 84% were looking to expand their membership. In a separate survey question about goals for their CSA business, nearly half (48.4%) said they wanted to diversify membership.
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