A Simple Feast, Columns, Lutherans in Minnesota

Looking for a summer outing?

During this season, seeds planted by farmers are emerging from the soil as recognizable plants: carrots, beans, beets, corn and tomatoes. It is a great time to plan a farm visit to learn about food. What’s involved in growing food — vegetables, grains, animals — and producing animal by-products like eggs, milk, and cheese?

Local farmers enjoy sharing their stories and experiences of working the land and growing food. Many farmers, especially those who sell direct to the market, are interested in building relationships with people who live within the area of their farm. They care about community, relationships, growing a variety of good healthy food, and sustaining the environment.

Eva Jensen

The ties between producer and consumer

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a type of farming. People buy a share in a farm, typically at the beginning of the growing season, and receive regular (most often weekly) deliveries of fresh farm produce throughout the season. For smaller households, it is possible to buy half-shares at several CSAs. There are so many farms and great variety: Some offer only vegetables; others provide eggs, flowers, fruit, honey, and more. On some farms you can pick your own produce; other farms are meat producers or cheese artisans.

A congregation is an excellent companion to a CSA farmer because one of the most difficult problems with this type of farming is the distribution of produce.

Many people join a CSA because they are interested in getting fresh healthy food that tastes good. Being part of a CSA can offer surprises. Imagine opening a box of strange vegetables you have never seen before. I remember being introduced to celeriac in 1996 when I opened one of my weekly boxes. I loved discovering the flavor it added to soups and other dishes.

Every week was filled with anticipation. Most of the fun was cooking with friends and tasting new foods, trying new recipes and visiting our CSA farm. It is that community aspect and the connection to farmers that keeps people coming back. Being part of a CSA connects us to the earth, the environment around us, and the impact of climate change. Anyone involved in a CSA knows where their food comes from, and such knowledge provides a keener sense of food safety.

A harvest at home

Some CSAs incorporate a commitment to addressing varied aspects of food justice. Many offer the opportunity to contribute to farm shares that are then given to food shelves and households that struggle to put food on the table. Big River CSA Farm with The Minnesota Food Association trains immigrants who want to become farmers in the United States. The Women’s Environmental Institute CSA supports environmental, agricultural, and food justice by providing opportunities for marginalized communities to access land, gardening, training, and agricultural production.

Joining a CSA is about both sharing in the bounty of the harvest and sharing in the farmer’s risk. If the season is bad for tomatoes, there will be fewer tomatoes in the share box and probably more of something else. In providing you with good food and a specific connection to the land, the farmer enriches your life.

A congregation is an excellent companion to a CSA farmer because one of the most difficult problems with this type of farming is the distribution of produce. In a church, the “community” comes together very predictably in a single location where the weekly share boxes can be delivered.

The CSA connection to a farm and food allows an individual, or congregation of individuals, to take responsibility for the stewardship of a portion of creation. Often, community supported agriculture provides opportunities for subscribers to volunteer on the farm or even purchase “working shares” to defray the cost of membership. Others host festivals, farm tours, camp-outs, potluck days, recipes, education on food handling and preparation, and other events for members. The integration of a CSA into a church provides a link to food shelves, meal programs, and food bank distribution. The distribution of a portion of the produce from a farm to those who are in need provides an opportunity to fulfill the biblical mandate to share the produce of our land.

Farm visits and CSA relationships are amazing opportunities for a community of faith to enter into relationship with the land, care for creation, and respond to God’s call to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

To learn more about CSA farms and how to get connected, see the Land Stewardship Project 2011 CSA Farm Directory: www.landstewardship project.org/csa.html. Enjoy the season, fresh local foods, and getting to know local farmers in your area.

Eva Jensen is an ELCA pastor who lives and works in the Twin Cities.

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