CSAs & Homesteading Surge During COVID

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

Series 2: Farming During COVID, Episode 2



Food insecurity as a result of COVID has spurred folks to hoard supplies and food. But it's also had another effect. Consumers are scrambling to get into a local farm share. They are planting gardens of their own, raising chickens and even homesteading. The result is a closer connection to farmers and fortified communities. Find a little inspiration for yourself here, on how to do your part to support farmers in your own back yard.


Hear about how farmers are selling out of CSA shares and how that impacts their bottom line. What about their seed supplies as they shift from selling to restaurants to selling to consumers? How are farmers inspiring consumers to walk a mile in their shoes? Victory gardens, an idea that is a century old, are popping up in back yards across the country. And, believe it or not, it's hard to get baby chicks right now. Whether you are starting a windowsill herb garden or want to get in a little bit deeper, Talk Farm to Me's five amazing guests will give you some ideas and maybe a little push.


Have a listen. When you're done, please head over to iTunes and give the podcast some stars and a rating. The numbers have been off the charts of late and it will only get better with your help. So, send a little love my way... for the farmers!


xoxo Farm Girl


IN THIS EPISODE

This episode is also a little longer than my usual 20 minutes 😬 ... but we all have a little more time on our hands and my five impressive guests deserve a little more time. Also, if you are like me, you have been doing a lot of dishes. So I figure this is the "spoonful of sugar" to help the chores go by more painlessly.


GUESTS

Megan Larmer, Director of Regional Food, Glynwood Center & Hudson Valley CSA Coalition, Cold Spring, New York

Carrie Sedlak, Director, Fairshare CSA Coalition, Madison, Wisconsin

Gretchen Kreisburg, Co-CEO, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Winslow, Maine

Kendra Higgins, Customer Service Specialist & Podcast Host, Meyer Hatchery, Polk, Ohio

Angela Fanning, Homesteader, Axe & Root Homestead, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey


MUSIC

All of the music in this episode is by Lobo Loco.

All Night Long (ID 774) and Spencer Bluegrass (ID 1230)

Creative Commons License (by-nc-nd)


PHOTOS

All of the photos were provided to Talk Farm to Me by episode guests. Gracias.


OF NOTE

All of the links above will give you more information about this episode's guests and their organizations, companies and farms. For more content and connections to these resources and others, follow this podcast on @talkfarmtome on Instagram.


If you are looking for a CSA to join in the Hudson Valley, on Saturday, April 11th, the Hudson Valley CSA Coalition is hosting a CSA Fair on ZOOM! Find out more here.


If you have new chickens, you might want to check out The Coop with Meyer Hatchery podcast for how-tos and other fun stuff.


SPECIAL THANKS

Always thank you to the amazing farmers and farm supporters who said "Yes!" to an interview. You are so smart and generous and interesting. I learn something new every episode and have so much respect for what you do and how you do it.





TRANSCRIPT

For those of you who cannot listen to the podcast or prefer to read it, here's a full transcript. Please forgive any typos.


Talk Farm to Me, Season 1, Episode 7

Narrowing the Gap - COVID Brings Farmers & Consumers Closer


Farm Girl (00:10):

Welcome to Talk Farm to Me. I'm your host Farm Girl. On Talk Farm to Me, the farmer takes center stage and we find out what they do and how they do it. No matter how you spend your time, I'm pretty sure you have more in common with farmers than you think. So sit back and relax and I'll bring a farmer and maybe a cow or two right into your living room for a chat.


Farm Girl (00:53):

It has been nearly a month since the United States declared a state of emergency in response to the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Grocery stores shelves are consistently bare of many essentials; disinfectants, bread, toilet paper, vegetables and fruit. On some items people are taking matters into their own hands where they can. They are making their own hand sanitizers, face masks and even starting gardens of their own. In response to COVID-19, folks are trying to quell their food security anxieties by becoming a little more self sufficient.


Farm Girl (01:31):

So how is this manifesting itself across the country? Folks are buying seeds for gardens, from window sills to backyards and bigger, baby chicks are in high demand. Families in rural and urban areas alike are joining farm share programs in record numbers. Others are still seeking a self sufficiency that can be achieved on a small scale in a homestead where you produce much of what you eat to develop some independence and security in a time of frightening food insecurity. What does this mean for farmers?


Farm Girl (02:11):

Certainly growing window sill herbs or even a little backyard garden is not going to yield enough food to prevent anyone from shopping for food. But it feels good to put a tiny seed in the ground and to harvest it for yourself. Even deeper than that, farmers now heralded as essential workers are getting deeper respect from the public. Walking a mile in a farmer's shoes by having some chickens to lay eggs, some tomatoes and salad greens gives many a new respect for farmers and the critical role that they play in our society, our community, in our lives.


Farm Girl (03:01):

Over 90 farms in the Hudson Valley along the mighty Hudson River, from Albany, New York to Westchester County, just north of New York City have banded together to help each other. They are the Hudson Valley CSA coalition, a program of the Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming. The coalition is a farmer-led effort that has been using collective marketing to build revenue streams and support for farmers since 2016. I spoke with the director of regional food at the Glynwood Center, Megan Larmer, about the 90 farms and the coalition in the context of the COVID pandemic. Megan reported that the coalition had conducted market research about CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture, an economic model that also Have the farmers in the coalition share.


Farm Girl (04:02):

The research came about because farmers were having trouble finding enough customers to purchase all of their CSA shares. The research showed that only 2% of the population in the Hudson Valley knew what a CSA was and how it worked. And so don't be worried if you don't know. For starters, you as a customer would buy a share in a farm at the beginning of the season, and get a share of the harvest as the season progresses, often on a weekly basis. Here, Megan explains why it's important to farmers.


Megan Larmer (04:38):

So what's appealing to farms about Community Supported Agriculture is that you get an infusion of cash at the start of the season when you were putting out your greatest expenditures and have guaranteed customer base for your crop as you grow. So that makes planning much easier. Certainly the financial strain is- is reduced some ... and it also provides an opportunity to really connect with the people that you're feeding because it is a direct relationship between the farmer and the CSA member. So that's really of high value to all the farmers I speak with.


Farm Girl (05:09):

The 90 farms in the coalition represent a wide range of sizes and product offerings.


Megan Larmer (05:16):

There's everything from CSAs that are offering around 20 or 30 shares to CSAs offering over 1500 shares. So it's, it's quite broad in range and what they're offering in their share also varies quite a bit. We have herbal farms that are doing medicinal CSA shares. We have livestock farms, doing meat and egg shares. We have whole diet farms that are doing everything. Vegetable CSAs, fruit CSAs, it really does run the gamut.


Farm Girl (05:50):

The Hudson Valley started with farmers worrying about whether there were too many farms and too few customers to fill their CSA shares. Now in the month since the United States officially declared a state of emergency in response to COVID, many don't have enough shares to meet customer demand.


Megan Larmer (06:11):

Right now as we see what's happening with CSA in the midst of this pandemic, Glynwoods farm has already sold out of shares almost a month ahead of- of any time in previous years that we would have sold all of our CSA vegetable shares. And talking with just the farms near here, many of them have- have ... their sales have accelerated far beyond what they normally would be at this point in the season. So the demand has really just gone through the roof for CSA. And I know that that's true nationally as well. They are all seeing just huge, huge uptick.


Farm Girl (06:46):

This news is underscored by a recent report that Yelp released on search terms that have been popular over the past several weeks. Inquiries for the term CSA increased Over 450% in just two weeks. With increased interest in subscriptions to CSAs, Megan and the farmer sheet works with are hoping some of this activity will be lasting on a regional level.


Megan Larmer (07:16):

There really is no silver lining to what's happening right now. But there is also a moment to recognize that that demand is there. When people pause and think about how they want to feed themselves and have the chance to pause and think about that. This is a model they want. So there's some optimism to be had, I guess from this moment.


Farm Girl (07:41):

Megan has a unique perspective. She operates in the space between farmers and consumers hearing from both groups about what they need. Customers are looking for food. They are looking for food close to home. They are intensely focused on being safe and secure in their communities.


Megan Larmer (08:02):

As humans were so good at forgetting trauma, it's like one of our best survival skills and most aggravating ones also. So it's hard to say how long it will last. But what I'm hearing