How CSA can empower your local circular economy and be a tool for staying safe during COVID-19

COVID-19 has disrupted many of the ways we respond to daily life and the activities that inform our days. In correspondence with Illinois’ “shelter-in-place” order, residents have been limited to only “essential” activities, those of which we absolutely cannot forgo, such as grocery shopping. Often considered a mundane chore, grocery shopping is now viewed with a sense of scrutiny and caution as it makes us susceptible to germs left behind from other unsuspecting shoppers. The coronavirus pandemic has not only pushed us to reevaluate our grocery buying habits, but it also transforms the way we think about our food, who is in contact with it, and where it comes from – details that many of us would otherwise overlook. Food is critical to our nourishment and well-being, but how often do we give pause to consider who those essential grocery workers, warehouse drivers, producers, and farmers are that have contributed to the food on our plates?

Understanding the food supply chain and its influence on our personal health and the local economy is crucial to realizing our role as consumers. COVID-19 amplifies this responsibility of consumer choice and how we have the ability to empower our local economy. Opting to source food locally is not only possible via CSA programs, but is also a great way to obtain high-quality produce, support community members, and safeguard sustainability, all while practicing responsible social distancing and bypassing grocery middlemen.

Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA as it is commonly referred, is composed of individuals who purchase an annual “share” of a local farm before the growing season begins and receive a return on this investment in the form of produce harvested in the growing season. In the Midwest, most farmers don’t have significant amounts of produce to sell in the later winter and early spring months. However, now is the pivotal time of year when they need to purchase many of their farm inputs, such as seeds, soil, compost, and other materials. Allowing customers to pay for shares upfront gives farmers the revenue they need as they plan out their resources and crops for the rest of the year. Most CSA programs today involve a weekly box of assorted produce chosen by the farmer and are delivered to your front door, or allow pick-ups from the farm or a designated community hub.

Plant Chicago supports a network of CSA farms throughout the southwest side of Chicago. In years past, Plant Chicago has hosted urban farmers and producers through a farmers market. In response to limited physical contact, the farmers market has taken shape as an online platform. Through our online farmers market, customers can buy from a network of local urban farms and vendors who offer a variety of options for your household lifestyle and budget.

Star Farm Chicago (Back of the Yards/New City) is accepting CSA sign-ups for the upcoming season. No-commitment, weekly and bi-monthly shares are available. Begin receiving fresh produce as soon as April 15. For more information on available add-ons, services and produce offerings visit Star Farm’s website.

Cedillo’s Fresh Produce (Englewood) is accepting CSA signups for their upcoming season. Pay an upfront cost to receive a bi-monthly or monthly delivery or pickup at Plant Chicago (Back of the Yards) or Earphoria (Logan Square). See website for more information on service areas, and produce offerings.

Urban Canopy (Pilsen) is accepting sign-ups for its LUCSA’s Summer 2020 program. Pay an upfront cost or pay as you go. Bi-monthly and Monthly options are available. See website for a breakdown of produce per season, available add-ons, service area, and membership details.

Closed Loop Farm (Back of the Yards) is currently offering weekly delivery and pick-up options at The Plant. Order and pay as you go through an online market  Choose from a variety of local vendors and farms, and Closed Loop Farm’s own microgreen and lettuce assortments. See website for item and program information.

Plant Chicago (Back of the Yards) is now offering $20 produce boxed to Link cardholders starting this Saturday, April 4 and will continue this offering upon demand and availability. Limited spots are available. Reserve your box here and we will call you to accept your Link payment. You can also call our office (773.847.5523) or email stef@plantchicago.org to reserve your box or ask questions. We are able to provide the boxes at half price to Link customers thanks to the Link Up Illinois program.

Happy CSA Customers:

“I had the pleasure of receiving my first ever CSA last summer through Cedillo’s Fresh Produce. Eating produce grown locally by a family that I know personally made me appreciate and enjoy my meals so much more. It was always a surprise to see what was in season, and such a joy to get creative with my cooking. Through my CSA experience, I have a greater appreciation for farmers, food, and my local economy. Now I can’t go back! Couldn’t imagine a summer without my CSA.”

Kassie, Plant Chicago Education Manager

“My favorite thing about joining Cedillo’s Fresh Produce’s summer CSA is how convenient it was! My roommate and I split the cost of half a share, so we got a bag every other week. Going this route was super affordable and it ended up being the perfect amount of food for the two of us. We always had a fresh supply of leafy greens, root veggies, tomatoes, etc. which made eating healthy and grocery shopping a breeze!”

Stef Funk, Program Coordinator

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