Despite growing concerns over the rise in food prices in Canada and the luxury status of cauliflower and greens this winter, it has never been so important to consider how you spend your food dollar and the impact it has on the social, ecological, and economic wellbeing of your community. There is a growing crisis in the food system that is going to require radical shifts in how we grow, store, transport, eat, and dispose of our food. Consider the fact that globally, the food system is responsible for 15-30% of all GHG emissions. In Canada, the average age of farmers is almost 60 and within the next 10 years, fully 2/3 of all farm land will come up for sale. Many rich countries around the world are struggling with diet-related disease such as diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, while billions still struggle to find enough to eat. Climate change will shift weather patterns and make many places drier and others wetter, and adaptation strategies will stretch even the wealthiest nations ability to cope. And all of this is happening as the food system becomes ever more concentrated in the hands of a few giant corporations: the Monantos, Cargills and ADMs of the world seeking to control every step from seed to feed.
I have been studying food systems for over a decade and tend to shy away from silver bullet answers. But the more I look at the problems we face in changing the food system, the more I realize there is a simple, effective solution to many of these interconnected problems. The CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture movement has been slowly changing the way food is grown, transported, and eaten. Eating local is important, but food miles only account for around 11% of the total embodied energy of your food. The vast majority comes in how the food is grown: the kinds of inputs, the machines used, and how the food is refrigerated and transported to you.
As a community food builder, author, and educator, I was inspired to take the plunge into the vibrant CSA movement and put down roots three years ago here at Common Ground Teaching Farm. Our goal: to become the most ecologically sustainable, socially just, and economically stable microfarm in Canada. Cultivating just 7500 square feet of raised beds, we run a 50 family CSA that in has bucked every trend in agriculture. We planted over 100 varieties of open-pollinated, heirloom plants in an intricate, bio-intensive and ecologically sustainable cropping system that leaves the soil healthier every year. With over 7500 lbs and 1000 boxes of veggies delivered to our members via our emmisions free bicycle-based delivery system, we try to reduce impact and increase community benefit at every stage. We built perhaps the most efficient refrigeration system in the world, combining the best of old and new world by building a solar powered walk in cooler out of straw bales. We hold organic gardening and canning workshops in our beautiful outdoor kitchen, and help train the next generation of farmers by giving living wage employment to young, enthusiastic and skilled farm managers passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food.
The only way to know your food dollar is having a deep impact is to support farms like our directly. Like many other CSAs, we rely on our member’s support and open the doors widely to the public. You can see first hand how we grow our food, and our accountability doesn’t stop at the check out counter. Starting at just $30 a week, including bicycle-based delivery, our CSA will let you feel good about the impact of your food dollar. Not only are you supporting living wage employment, you can feel good that your food has arrived at your door without damaging the environment or contributing to global warming. Our unique, heirloom varieties and convenient weekly recipes will help you eat your veggies, and our urban homesteading curriculum can turn you into a better chef, gardener, and food citizen.
Feel good about the impact of your food dollar and join a CSA today!