Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs give us a direct connection with the source of our food. Organic farmer Nigel Walker describes how CSAs benefit farmers and communities, and shares why it’s important to know your farmer.
What is a CSA?
Nigel Walker: CSA is a unique concept in buying produce. Basically, it means that you, the customer, are taking some responsibility for your food. You identify with a farm and tell the farmer, “I’ll pay you for several weeks ahead, and you send me a box of vegetables every week.” You get a newsletter that tells you what’s going on at the farm. You can visit the farm and see how everything is being grown. You can bring your kids and pick tomatoes and other produce. You get way more than a box of vegetables.
When a customer comes to my farm, they can really see how the crops are grown and meet the people. Recently, we had a farm day, and my foreman, Jose, did the farm tour. He led the tour in Spanish, and some members of the farm translated everything. People asked him questions. They saw the pride that Jose has in everything that we do on the farm.
Why is it important to know your farmer?
Nigel Walker: It’s important to know where your food comes from, and that’s much easier to do when it doesn’t travel very far. If you have a connection with the farm, if you’ve actually walked on the soil of the farm, it nourishes your soul. Having a connection with my customers, and the customers having a connection with the farm and the people who work here, is really important.
When you give your money to a local farmer, that money goes to the local economy. It goes directly into the farmer. He pays the farm workers, they go into the local stores, and they send their children to the local schools. All the money stays local. That helps us sustain our livelihoods and give everybody the freshest food possible.
What inspires you as a farmer?
Nigel Walker: I love growing things. That’s what keeps me going. More than that, I love when people get excited about our produce. This lady called me a few months ago, and she was in tears. She’d eaten some of our potatoes that we’d dug the day before. She’d gotten them in her CSA box, cooked them, and eaten them, and memories came flooding back of her grandfather’s garden in the Midwest. The flavor stimulated this memory. When we inspire people to be enthusiastic about their food and where it comes from, that’s my inspiration.More: Agriculture, Farm to Fork, Food and Community, Growing Food, Local Food, Nigel Walker, Shopping Wisely, Sustainable Farming