Tuesday, June 11, 2013

CSA's: Get With The Program

Every Sunday that I'm in town I get in my car and head out past the city limits for a little drive in the country.  I've been taking this drive for years now, sometimes with others, sometimes alone, but always down the same roads.  Out there the lines on the road disappear and there are more churches than stop lights.  Farmers are plowing the fields and families are having bonfires out back.  This is my version of the Norman Rockwell lifestyle, country edition!  If you know me well then this makes sense, considering I have a creepy obsession with boots, cowboys, and 4-wheel drives.  I mean, let's be serious here...a man driving a truck and wearing a pair of old shit kickers?!  Gah!  I also have a deep appreciation for people who are self-sufficient and can live off the land, as they seem to be a dying breed.  How great would it be to grow your own food, work for yourself, and make tons of money doing so?  Unfortunately, this is where Norm drops the ball.  Let me explain.    

Johnstown, OH

That John Deer is pretty sexy!

Running a farm in small towns like this is not for the weak of heart.  Overhead is high, the climate is unpredictable, and profits are bleak.  The USDA breaks it down:
  • In 2009, the net earnings from farming activities on 90.5% of all farms in America (with sales less than $249,000) was on average $2,615.00.  Ummm...say whaaa??
  • 85-95% of farm household income came from off-farm sources including other outside employment earnings and separate business activities.
  • Over 40% of farm operators consider something other than farming to be their primary occupation.

In 2005, my lovely Alma Mater, The Ohio State University (yah, I'm that girl) published a study titled "How many sheep would it take me to make a living?".  The study set the goal annual income at $50,000.  It determined that it would take a farm generating $300,000 in gross revenue or 1778 ewes (plus their lambs) to profit 50K.  Here's the problem.  Only 10.8% of American farms bring in gross sales of $250,000 or more.  Also, 98.9% of all breeding sheep operators have fewer that 500 ewes.

So, how do we keep these guys in biz?  Supporting your local economy is the best way and you can do that by subscribing to a CSA.  Community supported agriculture is a locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution.   A CSA's main focus is on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic farming methods and a shared risk membership-marketing structure.  Basically, a CSA refers to a relationship between local farmers and community members who pay the farmer an annual membership fee to cover the production costs of the farm.  In turn, they receive a share of the harvest during local growing season.  Animal farmers participate in the same manner.

I found my CSA through a company called Azoti.  Azoti is seriously amazeballs and has changed the way I eat forever.  This company truly embodies the farm to fork ideology.  In short, Azoti is the middle man between me and the farm.  They find legit farmers in the area who don't deal with that non-organic BS and bring their products to busy people like me.  I fill out a membership subscription with what food I want and my food gets delivered to my workplace!!  Literally, can it get easier than that?  OMC Farms provides my meat and eggs and VanScoy Farms provides the fruits and veggies.  I love OMC so much that I've driven out to the farm myself to pick up my food and the amazing farmers have given me a tour of the grounds.  Check out their story here.  For more info on VanScoy Farms check out this video. 

Food Porn. Yup.

CSA's are popping up all over the country.  Check out if your area has one at www.localharvest.org.  I clearly feel good about supporting my local cowboys, and knowing exactly where my food comes from.  Purdue Chicken is officially dead to me.  Oh!  And last month, OMC threw in extra bacon and sausage into my subscription for the hell of it.  They obviously know that the way to a girl's heart is through thick cut smoked pork.


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