How do we make local organic food more affordable and still run a viable business? That was one of our big questions when we started Good Heart Farmstead back in 2013. As a certified organic vegetable farm growing on just 1.5 acres, our mission is to increase local food access. Our small size means we don’t often have the surplus to open up for gleaning like many larger operations do. Then there’s the sticking point of creating a viable business — how do we increase food access while still being paid a fair price? That’s where the NOFA-VT Farm Share Program comes in.
The Farm Share Program is a win-win for eaters and farmers. Through it, low-income Vermonters are able to get CSA shares for half off, while farmers are paid the full price. Beyond making local food more affordable, the program lays the foundation for more connections between eaters and farmers. Since 2013, we’ve seen our farm community grow through fundraisers for Farm Share; we’ve received private donations to help fund Farm Share from CSA members and community members alike, and we’ve fed many individuals and families who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a CSA.
With the help of Farm Share, we’ve been able to take meaningful steps to increase food access while growing deeper relationships with our community. To learn more about Farm Share from an eater’s perspective, I recently talked with a long-time CSA Member, Jodi, who shared how meaningful the program is for her.
Katie: What are the most meaningful aspects of the CSA for you?
Jodi: It's more effective for me to buy through you than the coop. For me, the price point is the most important thing when I'm worried about how I'm going to eat well, and how I will pay for that. And value. The good value I'm getting for something that I know that you and Edge and Waylon have worked so hard to do all year long.
K: You've been a CSA Member with us for a long time and have really seen us grow through so many things. Were you a member of a CSA before that, too?
J: I was. I’ve been part of the CSA world for a long time. As soon as I became aware of it here in Vermont, and I've been in Vermont now for 17 years. I've been a CSA Member for close to that.
K: Do you remember what the initial thing that drew you to a CSA was?
J: I remember going to the farmers market and looking through all the vendors there and finding a specific farm that I was drawn to the most, and then someone mentioned to me that I could get a CSA for this. Then they explained to me what that meant, and I thought 'Wow, that's great, that's what I'm going to do.' And I love going to the farm. Part of the whole CSA experience for me was going to the farm. So that's how it all began for me. I wanted to see where my vegetables are really coming from and how it was being done.
Growing up, I was a city kid. I didn't see how things were grown. I did spend a summer in Minnesota on a farm when I was 11, so I did get to see things grown then because the family I was with had a beautiful garden and chickens. So I was exposed to that for a summer, but to reunite with that again as an adult like 20 years later, that was important for me.
K: One of the reasons I started farming was to have that understanding, too, and the relationship between us and our CSA Members is a big reason we chose this model.
J: I’ve seen how invested you are in the relationships you've created over the years. For me, other ways of buying food felt anonymous. With the CSA, it's the intimacy for me of knowing who's really doing the work. My relationship with you and Edge is one of the priorities for me.
K: We look forward to seeing people at pick-up, too. Some people come and grab their stuff and go, but it’s often a deeper interaction for us, too. It feels nice to know that people appreciate the food, but it's also more than just the food.
J: Absolutely. I remember meeting your parents through a mutual friend, so I know your family — not well, you know, but I've met them and I've run into your mom at the farm.
K: The CSA becomes an extended community.
J: Absolutely. I get to know you and Edge, and now I'm watching Waylon grow up. Even though I'm picking up off the farm now, I do get the newsletters, and I see the changes in him and his size and you know what I mean?
K: I love that you get to see Waylon growing up. We started the farm the year he was born, so this is our 10th year.
J: I remember you pregnant, so I was there your first summer! Oh this is exciting to realize we've known each other this long now.
K: It is! Before we go, my last question is if someone asked you why you should join a CSA, what would you tell them?
J: You're going to get way better value, and you're going to get to know the people that are growing your food. Those two things together are what makes me want to do it year after year after year.