Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups across Louisville work to provide nutritious and environmentally friendly products for their communities.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups across Louisville work to provide nutritious and environmentally friendly products for their communities.
Dia Cohen

OPINION: Consumer benefits of Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a group of individuals that provide monetary support to a local farm, and in return, receive weekly fruits and vegetables. The goal of many CSAs is to become a part of the community and to share benefits and losses with consumers. Taking part in a CSA holds various benefits for community members and the environment. For a more thorough explanation of CSAs, take a look at RedEye’s explainer piece on CSAs.   

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reports that from 2013-2016, 36.6% of adults consumed fast food products in a given day. Such high quantities don’t come as a surprise, considering the notably large number of fast-food restaurants in the United States. However, various health risks come with such a diet, not only nutritional but because of food mishandling. 

Lariah Edwards and her colleagues at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health conducted a study on factors of fast food that lead to food contamination. Food contamination refers to the presence of substances in foods that could potentially harm an individual. In this scenario, the University studied the effect of “food handling gloves” on the level of plasticity found in fast food products. Edwards and her colleagues collected common fast food items such as burgers and fries to test them for various chemicals. They concluded that fast food items were more likely to contain phthalates. 

“We generally observed higher chemical concentrations in foods containing meat relative to other foods, such as cheese pizza,” said Edwards and her colleagues in their article in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastic more durable. Phthalates are known for affecting the glands that release hormones within the endocrine system, negatively affecting the success of pregnancy and child growth.  

As concerns pertaining to where and how food is produced increase, individuals seek alternative methods of production. Unlike the processed food industry, CSAs allow consumers to know where and how their food is grown. 

“With a Barr Farms CSA, members receive great tasting, nutrient-dense food like organic veggies, grass-fed beef, and pastured chicken and build a relationship with a local farmer,” said Adam and Rae Strobel Barr, founders of Barr Farms CSA, during an interview with RedEye.  Farming is a practice that has been passed down through the Barr family for seven generations. Their inspiration for starting their CSA began with a desire to provide individuals with healthy food. The family uses natural ways to maintain the soil rich in nutrients and minerals. 

Another community advantage of CSA is it is a way to partake in sustainable methods of production that benefit more than just the environment. According to Pahl’s Market, a CSA Program in Minnesota, participating in CSA could decrease CO2 emissions from long-distance transportation as well as other environmental damages the food industry has. 

“I want to positively influence the natural environment by caring for our natural resources, and having the farm be a positive impact on our shared natural and environmental resources like waterways, air, and soil,” said Bree Pearsall, one of the owners of Rootbound Farm CSA located in Oldham County, Kentucky. Rootbound Farm provides community members with an account where they can pre-order and customize their boxes with the fruits and veggies available each week.  

Besides providing the consumer with an idea of where their food comes from, CSAs are much more environmentally friendly. The food industry’s production methods have caused severe damage to the environment. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), industrial activity and agricultural practices such as raising livestock, agricultural soils and rice production release around 33% of greenhouse emissions. CSAs, on the other hand, as small farms that aren’t adjusting their production to accommodate a rapidly growing population, are not as dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and hormones. These chemicals not only affect the taste of food but also negatively impact ecosystems when released into the environment. Additionally, to strengthen local ties, CSAs don’t transport their food hundreds of miles before it reaches a consumer. Instead, consumers can pick up their food from a local farmers market or pick-up site.  

Despite the clear benefits of CSAs, it is important to note that many communities rely on fast food as their only source of nourishment. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that around 13.5 million people in the U.S. live in food deserts. Food deserts are defined as urban areas where it is difficult to access healthy food. Additionally, according to the Greater Louisville Project, in 2010, nearly 13% of Louisville’s population suffered from food insecurity. Impoverished communities can afford what is cheap and readily available to them, which is usually fast food chains or gas stations. 

Due to the inaccessibility of outside, expensive foods for impoverished people, a discouraging concern that often arises around CSAs is their price and unaffordability. However, CSAs offer opportunities to support less fortunate families as they seek to join one of these community systems.  

“Because of the community nature of CSA, there are many opportunities to leverage support and funding sources for subsidized shares for households that need reduced price shares,” Pearsall said.  Pearsall also believes that during global pandemics like COVID-19, strong local farming communities can respond better to local food necessities than global supply chains. 

However, despite subsidies many CSAs aren’t very affordable to many low-income families. With this knowledge in mind, many CSAs have modified the way they function to provide affordable and fresh products to families in need. One of these CSAs is the New Roots Fresh Stop Market. This CSA has localized various food markets around “fresh food-insecure neighborhoods”, where consumers can pay on an income-sliding scale. This means that prices are variable depending on the consumer’s ability to pay. Additionally, each person gets the same-sized bag regardless of what they paid. To learn more about New Roots Fresh Stop and the opportunities they offer for all-income families visit their website.

Louisville alone is home to various CSAs who are willing and ready to help families of all incomes embark on their journey of incorporating a healthier, environmentally friendly, and affordable diet.  

 

About the Contributor
Dia Cohen, Photo and Design Editor
Dia Cohen is the Photo and Design Editor for Manual RedEye this year. She loves to read, play piano, draw and stargaze. She is passionate about covering criminal justice issues. In short, she's a real renaissance woman. You can contact her at [email protected].
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