Corporate CSAs

Industrial agriculture doesn’t intend to lose any “market share” to small sustainable farmers without a fight.  Our movement emerged under the term “organic.”  That word was soon co-opted and today 80% of the food sold as “organic” is produced by one of the big corporate agribusinesses.  Most of us aren’t even legally allowed to use the word “organic” anymore.   And supermarkets have things like “organic Oreos.”

Informed consumers who have avoided being taken for a corporate organic ride have chosen to get their food locally.  Many have joined CSAs.  This is not lost on the industrial complex however.

So now we have grocery stores trying to imitate the CSA model and food conglomerates trucking in food that has no identity to a particular farm, underpricing local farmers and calling their stuff “local.”  Sometimes the claims are just plain false and other times they’re merely misleading.

Bottom line:  shake the hand that feeds you (to borrow some advice from Michael Pollan).  To the extent possible, make sure that when you trade money for food, you place your money in the hand of the farmer who grew the food, not some middleman or corporate employee.  If you shop at a farmer’s market, make sure the vendors you support are truly local.  Ask about their farm.  Find out if they are farmers or just middlemen/employees.  Maybe sneak a look at their fingernails to see if you can spot any dirt under them.

The best way to assure that you’re getting what you want and expect out of “organic” and “local” food is to establish relationships with a few local farmers.  In my experience most of them love getting to know their customers and take pleasure in helping them improve their diets and health.

In the meantime, beware of corporate CSAs and phony “local” food.

4 comments on “Corporate CSAs

  1. Bob Braxton says:

    the Virginia Railway Express Burke, Virginia, outdoor paved “parking” area on Saturdays in the warm and hot seasons hosts trucks and some of them drive perhaps a hundred or two hundred miles to meet the Saturday “farmers’ market” – even more, hundreds of people Drive their own vehicle (Prius notwithstanding), park, walk, return to their vehicle (some big vans, etc.) and drive away with their plastic bags (or carry cloth bags) of what may or may not be a farmer’s produce.


    • Bill says:

      The increasing popularity of farmers markets has caused some opportunists to cheat–passing off grocery-store produce as homegrown. Caveat emptor.


  2. shoreacres says:

    It’s a fine line here, as the farmers’ markets often have produce from the Rio Grande Valley or elsewhere when local farms aren’t producing or have limited items. Is it “local”? You have to ask some questions, as some sellers I know will drive a good distance to bring back produce – especially things like peaches, blackberries and apples. Peaches from Fredericksburg and Pittsburgh (TX) are out of this world, but it’s a 4-5 hour drive to get to them. I do appreciate the people who are willing to make the drive and bring back the produce.

    I guess I’d say it’s not exactly local, but we know its pedigree. 😉


    • Bill says:

      What exactly “local” means is a big discussion in our movement now. I suppose as long as the food originates on this continent it’s an improvement. I read a blog post recently from a farmer outside of Houston who was complaining about the refrigerated trucks from the other side of Texas driving past his farm with food they were going to sell in Houston as “local.”

      Common sense should usually provide an answer to the question. But as you say, it’s important to ask those questions.


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