CSA pick-ups banned at Adk farmers markets
Should CSAs be able to distribute their shares to members at the farmers market? Photo: Joanna RichaFarmers who run CSAs – which stands for Community Supported Agriculture – can no longer distribute their weekly boxes of fruits and vegetables to their members at ten farmers markets in the Adirondacks.
The Adirondack Farmers Market Cooperative board voted 5 to 1 earlier this month on the measure. Board president Dick Crawford told me over the phone Sunday that the cooperative's by-laws prohibit the distribution of products not being sold at the market proper. Crawford said "we're not against producers selling the produce." The cooperative operates ten farmers markets in the Adirondacks and Champlain Valley.
The decision angered some CSA owners. In an e-mail to its CSA members, Fledgling Crow Vegetables in Keeseville called the measure "unjust", saying:
We are working for our local community to produce high quality food, and actions like this seem like a backwards step.
Farm owners, Ian Ater and Lucas Christenson, wrote that no CSA farmers were present at the vote.
Crawford says CSA owners were given 10-day notice of the meeting. But he says no one knew the issue was going to come up until a board member brought it for a vote. Crawford says "there's lots of misinformation on both sides". He said the issue will be on the agenda of the cooperative's annual meeting this Sunday, March 3rd at the Saranac town hall.
Fledgling Crow CSA member Melissa Gerdes, who forwarded me the CSA e-mail, wrote that picking up her share at a non-cooperative Saranac Lake farmers market (run by the Au Sable Valley Grange). So her pickup wouldn't be affected. But what she says in the e-mail, that a local pickup is far more convenient – and uses less gas – than driving to the farm in Keeseville is relevant. She adds she also frequents other farm stands while she's there:
Of course, I found myself buying local cheese, meat, bakery items and crafts (and other produce) since I was at the market to pick up my CSA share anyway.
In CSAs, people pay up front for a share in a farm's bounty, and get a weekly portion of that share. Farmers like the system because it helps with the upfront costs of the spring and gives them investors who share the benefit and the risk that goes along with farming.
"In or out" debates rile many farmers markets across the country – whether prepared food vendors should be allowed, or, how far produce can be trucked and still be considered local.
CSAs are new and growing quickly in popularity. According to Adirondack Harvest, there are more than a dozen CSAs operating in the Adirondack region, with another dozen in nearby St. Lawrence County. They'll need new rules to govern how they're folded into the local farming industry. The town of Canton, for example, is writing up new zoning rules that could allow CSAs to farm in residential areas.
Of course, this issue can be resolved one way or another before CSA members actually show up at any farmers markets this spring. But it seems that the last thing the local food movement wants is a rift within its ranks.
An interesting side story in this issue, one that stokes the debating fires of the farmers market movement like few others, is the difference between the two Saranac Lake markets. The AFMC one allows 30% of produce to come from off the farm. The Au Sable one is 100% grown on the farm by the grower. We'll try to hit that story on the future here on The Dirt. If you have any thoughts about that, please comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: I've corrected a part of this post to clarify that there are two different Saranac Lake farmers markets, only one of which Fledgling Crow Vegetables uses as a distribution point for its CSA.
Tags: csa, distribution, farmers market, farming, local, regulation