Searching for a way to get more involved in your local food system? Want to figure out how to buy more locally? Consider these three options!
1. Join a CSA
Community supported agriculture, or CSAs, allow you to buy a share of produce from a local farm. Essentially, you pay a fee in advance of the harvesting season, and then during the season you receive a box that includes a variety of produce items. There are benefits for both sides – the farm receives funding up front to support their work, and you receive an abundance of fresh, local food throughout the season. Some CSAs provide just vegetables, while others provide a mixture of vegetables and fruit.
In the Northeast, spring is generally the time when CSA sign ups open up – so check out your local farms to see what’s available! When we lived in southern Massachusetts, we joined the CSA at Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon. I loved it because it included both fruits and vegetables, and sometimes even a special treat like an apple butter.
2. Become a member of a food co-op
Food cooperatives, or co-ops, are stores and markets that are community owned by local members. By becoming a member of the co-op, you are a part owner of the organization and entitled to benefits. These often include voting or running for the Board of Directors (which leads the co-op in business decisions), receiving discounts on certain days of the year, and receiving a patronage rebate at the end of profitable years. The patronage rebate is a way that profits are distributed to members, and is based on the sales of the store as well as your purchases throughout the year as a member.
In the Boston area, the most popular example is Harvest Co-op, with stores in Cambridge and Jamaica Plain. If you’re not local to Massachusetts, consider googling your town or state to find out what co-ops might be available where you live.
3. Pick your own produce
It won’t be picking season here for a few months, but keep this option in mind for your summer and fall weekends. I just love the experience of picking your own fruit – walking throughout the orchard, smelling the delicious scents, sampling the varieties as I filled my bag. It’s a wonderful experience for kids and adults alike, and a great way of introducing your children to local food production.
Massachusetts offers plenty of other pick your own fruit options, most commonly strawberries in June, blueberries and raspberries in July, peaches in August, and apples in September. Several farms also offer pick your own vegetable options – we hit up Tangerini Farm in Millis last year to pick fresh corn, eggplant, and cherry tomatoes. Try searching the Pick Your Own website to find a location close to you.
Of course, there are also many other ways to become involved. Participate in a community garden, shop at your local farmers market, purchase meat and dairy from a local farm, and more. Think creatively and become an active participant in your local food system!