Ask this question before joining a farm csa or co-op..
This might seem obvious.
Just go with me.. “Do you grow all the produce?”
That’s the question you need to ask you ‘farmer’ when you are getting ready to join any type of membership program.
I think you should even ask at the farmers market.
You’d be shocked at how many farmers are buying produce through the same wholesale channels that your mega-grocery mart might be using.
That’s right, your ‘farmer’ might be selling the same foreign produce as the grocery chain.
At my first farmers market ever, there were these larger farms and their giant “Jersey Fresh” signs. They looked so legit.. until you started asking why they had tomatoes in May!
“Oh, we buy ‘em.”
I was shocked and appalled. It seemed like a betrayal.
Keep in mind: they didn’t have any signage showing the customers that most of their produce was not local farm food. They left their ‘Jersey Fresh’ signs up high, and marked the handful of authentic local produce as ‘Jersey this and that’, and let the customers just assume that all those other produce was local, too.
At the time, I thought it was dishonest.
I still do.
But let me tell you about another kind of situation, that isn’t nearly as sinister..
You might have a farmer who specializes in a few crops. She’s really good at those 3 or 4 crops. But her customers want more variety.
At the same time, her neighbor down the road is a farmer, and specializes in a few other crops. Our first farmer might agree to offer her neighbors crops to her customers, adding value for both farmers and the customers.
That’s not so bad, right?
It’s what we call an ‘aggregator’.
Out of every 10 farmers, one might be good at selling and marketing product. Often times that one farmer is the one who provides a market for the others who just want to play in the dirt and not bother with ‘business’ building.
Sometimes, the aggregator produces so much value for the farmers and the customers, they have to quit their own farming to keep up with the service they provide in aggregation and distribution.
All this is natural.
But I’m telling you so that you know to ask, “Where does the produce come from?”
It’s ok to buy food from people who didn’t grow it, as long as they can tell you exactly who did grow it.
By the way, have you joined a CSA yet?
Get on it!