Supply chains have been disrupted and some grocery store shelves remain bare, but at Maine’s farms, the growing season is beginning in earnest. In a time when the state’s governor determines what is an essential business, community-supported agriculture in Maine could become one of the most essential purchases for families struggling to put quality foods on their tables.
Farms throughout the state offer CSA programs, allowing local people to pay upfront for a share of the year’s harvest, growing locally with minimal handling or transportation.
And it could be a win-win for the farms as well. Spring is when Maine farmers spend a lot more money than they earn as they purchase seeds, fertilizer, equipment and pay labor costs but have few crops to sell. Steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Maine have only exacerbated that situation and many farmers have seen wholesale and retail sales falling off or drying up entirely. Cash from CSA sales could help get them through a financially-lean period.
Is a CSA right for you?
How traditional CSAs work
Think of a CSA as a subscription box for local food. Consumers pay a certain amount upfront for the CSA membership and receive weekly shares of the crops from those farms for a specified duration during the growing season.
“CSAs are a great way to support local farms,” said Sarah Alexander, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “And we are seeing in times like this just how important local food and our farmers really are.”
Alexander said most Mainers live in near proximity to at least one certified organic farm offering CSAs. MOFGA maintains a database of certified organic farms offering CSAs. More recently, University of Maine Cooperative Extension introduced an online database mapping Maine farms and ways to access their products beyond CSAs.
Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.
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