Why Supporting Your Local CSA Matters

By Carolina Prado
Graduate Student in ESPM, UC Berkeley

In summer of 2016 I received a community engagement fellowship through the Berkeley Food Institute. I partnered with Phat Beet Produce, an Oakland based food justice organization that works on creating access to healthy produce in the city on a restorative economics model. Our project included an outreach plan to increase the subscription to the organization’s Beet Box, or community supported agriculture (CSA) box. CSAs are programs in which farm operations are supported by subscribers who share both the benefits and risks of food production. CSA programs like the “Beet Box” include partnerships with a variety of farmers, in this case, small farmers of color.  

Community Supported Agriculture

When you consider the fact that California is the leading state in the country when it comes to farm income, it is a shock that only 21% of principal farm operators in the state are farmers of color[1]. When the people of color make about 62 percent of the state’s population[2], having less than a fourth of farm operators from these populations is concerning when it comes to building a just economy.

Where your produce comes from and who you are supporting matters. While working with Phat Beets Produce I helped expand a community supported agriculture program called the Beet Box with five farmers of colors operating small-scale farms in the Central Valley and the Central Coast. I created a series of outreach programs to increase the subscriptions to this program because supporting a CSA like this one matters.

Why does it matter?

1.  Supporting local, small-scale farmers has a big impact on their sustainability.

Small farmers, especially farmers of color, have a hard time finding a welcoming and accessible market to sell their produce. They struggle with the balance between selling their produce and making sure they make enough of a profit to sustain themselves and their families. Supporting these farmers makes a big difference for the sustainability of their business.

Filling the Phat Beets CSA deliveries.
Filling the Phat Beets CSA deliveries.

2.  You are signing up to eat with the seasons.

When you sign up to a local CSA, you are also signing up to eat with the seasons because you will be getting produce that can grow in your area with your climate. This is an important part of building an ecologically mindful life.

Phat Beets produce for sale at a farmers market.
Phat Beets produce for sale at a farmers market.

3.  Building up a program like the Beet Box supports food justice in the city.

At Phat Beets Produce, the profits that the CSA project produces for the organization after paying the farmers are used to help increase access to healthy foods in Oakland. Through the Beet Box, hundreds of families receive “Beet Bux” certificates through the Children’s Hospital to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables from Phat Beets’ many farmer’s markets and produce stands.

Supporting a community supported agriculture program like the Beet Box in Oakland, you are promoting the sustainability of small farmers of color, the ecological sustainability of your region, as well as food justice in the city. With this message, I spent my summer reaching out to East Bay community members to consider supporting this program through their own produce choices. We all need to make these choices for ourselves and our families, why not put the most intention into making these decisions with justice and solidarity in mind?

A "Beet Box" CSA delivery.
A “Beet Box” CSA delivery.

For more information, go to phatbeetsproduce.org.

[1] These statistics come from the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture.
[2] This number comes from the 2015 United States Census Bureau.