We don’t need to tell you that the 2020 growing season was unlike any other. As restaurants closed, farmers markets went virtual, and global supply chains strained under the pressure of the pandemic, farms across the world were forced to reconsider their crop plans, market channels, and safety protocols. Consumers were likewise adjusting to the new norm. With fewer prepared meal options and more anxiety in going to the grocery store, families scrambled to find ways to get delicious food on the table in a way that felt safe.
A common response to this farming and shopping crisis was to turn to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a direct-to-consumer economic model in which people buy a pre-paid “membership” to the farm and receive farm-fresh produce, meat, dairy, or other farm products throughout the growing season. This response was particularly popular in the Hudson Valley, whose CSA Coalition (facilitated by Glynwood) includes over 100 regional farms who use the CSA model. This past spring, the Coalition watched as countless seasoned CSA farms sold out of shares in record time. Many farms joined the Coalition in 2020, closing wholesale accounts and adopting CSA for the first time. They, too, sold out. The mutual needs of farmers and consumers matched perfectly: consumers wanted food they knew was healthy, delicious, fresh, and could be picked up socially distanced, and farmers wanted economic security and a season-long outlet for their product.
It is already clear that 2021 will be another popular year for Community Supported Agriculture. With CSA membership on the rise, the Hudson Valley CSA Coalition is actively considering how our region can build upon emerging opportunities to ensure successful CSA seasons for years to come. How can we take lessons learned in 2020 to shore up our resilience for future challenges? How can we support first time CSA members and first time CSA farmers alike? How can we make sure everyone in our communities has the opportunity to participate in CSA, regardless of ZIP code or income?
In order to begin answering these questions, the Hudson Valley CSA Coalition will be hosting a virtual CSA Summit on Thursday, February 18. The Summit will be a time to take a collective breath, reconnect, and identify solutions and collaborations to make CSA in our region as successful as possible. Although the Summit is geared towards CSA farmers, we encourage anyone interested to register for the event and spread the word. We look forward to reflecting, learning and growing together.