As the availability of local and organic foods has exploded in recent years, one of the critiques of the movement is that the cost of these foods can be prohibitive for many families. And its not just the cost of fresh vegetables that can be a deterrent. If you aren’t familiar with working with raw ingredients, the idea of cooking dinner for your family after a long day of work can be daunting.
A coalition of local community organizations, advocates, and chefs are partnering with one local farm to overcome both of these issues. Syracuse Model Neighborhood Facility, Inc. – Southwest Community Center and the Brady Faith Center are using funds provided through “The Empowerment Fund”, a donor advised fund of the CNY Community Foundation, to subsidize the cost of CSA shares from Homer based Main Street Farms.
CSA, or community supported agriculture, is kind of an alternative market model where you pay for a season’s worth of produce in advance of the season. You buy a share of a farmer’s harvest at the beginning of the growing season, and every week you get a box of freshly picked vegetables. This particular share program is a little different, in that participating families are able to pay for shares every week, instead of in full at the beginning of the season.
Families in the program pay $9 for a box that includes 11 different kinds of organically grown vegetables and herbs. The selection changes every week, depending on what is in season. One of the goals for the future of the program is to be able to accept SNAP benefits from participants to pay for their share.
The project is modeled after one that Main Street Farms launched last summer in Cortland. The Cortland project is in conjunction with an urban farm plot that Main Street Farms was able to open in the city after a successful crowdfunding campaign. They use the plot to not only grow vegetables for the farm, but also as center for food and farm education in the city. Cornell Cooperative Extension provides cooking demos on CSA pick up days.
In Syracuse, the program is supported by cooking classes hosted by local Chefs Will Lewis (who also serves as the Director of the Syracuse Community Test Kitchen) and Stephen Landon, who was recently named the 2014 Chef of the Year by the Syracuse chapter of the American Culinary Federation. Every other week they are hosting a class during the CSA pickup in the kitchen of The South West Community Center to teach people how to use the ingredients they received that day.
After over a year of planning and meetings about various different ways to run the program, the project is up and running, with people picking up their first CSA boxes at the beginning of August. The program runs bi-weekly until the end of October, and is full for this season.
If the program is successful, Main Street Farms hopes to find a space to farm in the City of Syracuse, and further their vision of food being grown on Main Street in every city and town across the country.