December 21, 2011

2011 CSA Season at JHSPH: It’s a Wrap!

Mia Cellucci

Mia Cellucci

Guest Blogger

Center for a Livable Future

In a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model, consumers pay regional farmers upfront for a share in the season’s harvest. This helps cover production costs and ensures a steady market, helping smaller farmers remain in business. The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) and Maryland’s One Straw Farm established the first CSA project at JHSPH in 2007 and have since connected hundreds of faculty, students and staff to fresh, local, certified organic produce while communicating key food system issues. In 2011, the Center began offering members the option to supplement their produce with a share of antibiotic-free, pasture-raised poultry from Albright Farms. Members may join the One Straw Farm Produce CSA, the Albright Farms Poultry CSA, or both.

A big thanks to our 186 members, on behalf of One Straw Farm, Albright Farms and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, for participating in the Community Supported Agriculture project at JHSPH this season! They represent the largest membership to date, with 110 produce shares from One Straw Farm and 6 poultry shares from Albright Farms. Thanks to their participation, over 11 additional produce shares were donated to local projects that promote community access to safe, healthy food. This collective action has brought us one step closer to a sustainable food system—one that is ecologically sound, economically viable and socially just.

In the words of Farmer Joan Norman, “This year may go down in the record books as the strangest weather year. Spring rains, really hot summer, earthquake, hurricane, tropical storm, incessant rains, and snow all in one season.” The hot weather in July meant fewer hard winter squash, and the heavy September rain caused much of the surviving squash to rot early. Other Maryland farmers and their neighbors in Pennsylvania, Vermont, New York, and South Carolina reported the same problems. There were even some who lost everything to rivers flooding.

Seasons like this one remind us of the risk involved in farming and the importance of being thankful for whatever crops survive the myriad environmental dangers in your region—insects, weeds, fungi and/or weather. For many people, part of the appeal of joining a CSA is the culinary flexibility that goes hand-in-hand with eating seasonally.

And now, a recap of the 2011 season based on our 2011 member survey results:

One Straw Farm Produce CSA at JHSPH:

  • 110 full shares purchased (9 more than last year!)
  • 77.8% of members split a share with at least one other person, for a total of 186 participants.
  • Over 65% of members were new to the JHSPH CSA this year.
  • Member affiliation (JHU):
    • 45% students
    • 28% staff
    • 15% faculty
    • 12% other
    • 58.3% of members primarily work/take classes in the Wolfe St. building

Top 5 Reasons for Joining the CSA:

  1. Supporting local farms/economy
  2. Health
  3. Environment/Buying organic (tied for third place)
  4. Convenience
  5. Good value

What are members saying?

  • 96% of members were satisfied with the CSA this season.
  • Over 72% reported that CSA produce was higher quality than other (non-CSA) produce.
  • Over 81% reported receiving just the right amount of produce every week.
  • 89% of members felt the cost of CSA membership was a good value for the amount of produce they received.
  • Over 82% of members tried new foods through the CSA that they will seek out in the future.
  • Of the respondents who aren’t skipping town, over 81% said they would participate in the CSA at JHSPH again next year.
  • 95% of participants would recommend the CSA at JHSPH to a friend.

Favorite Quotes:

  • “Participation in the CSA has encouraged me to eat vegetables in some recipes as a replacement for meat products and to cook seasonally appropriate foods.”
  • “I have eaten more greens than ever!”
  • “Since the meals were based on the produce received that week, we didn’t need to do a lot of menu planning.”
  • “I had a healthier diet. On Tuesdays, some friends and I would get together and cook from the week’s share, which was a nice social gathering that we started because of the CSA.”
  • “We ate at home more frequently and ate more vegetables throughout the summer. We ate vegetables we have never tried until this summer as well. We may have spent a little extra time cooking, but as we became more familiar with newer items, we were able to get into a groove and coast along.”
  • “Increased vegetable prep = increased vegetable eating”

If you are a JHU faculty/staff member or student at the East Baltimore campus (including the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Medical Institute and School of Nursing), I hope to see you at the CSA pick-up site next season! In the meantime, check out our CSA recipe blog, where you can search by ingredient for inspiration to cook fresh, healthy foods all year round.

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