“Our first year, we didn’t even ask for upfront payment from anybody,” Sonya tells us—their first son was born the same week that their first farm share deliveries dropped! “We just wanted to start using CSA as a model to grow organically as a very small farm.”
Besides the challenge of nurturing the health of their land’s soil for the health of their harvest, farm life involves “making choices that allow us to be financially sustainable. When I came into farming,” Perrotti shared earlier this year, “I was more interested in doing the ‘right thing’—making our farm harmonious with nature and feeding our community. But if we can’t pay our bills, the people who are working on the farm with us, or ourselves, then that’s not sustainable.”
After the last six months of uncertainty, Perrotti has learned that doing “the right thing” and making a living are inseparable. “It wouldn’t be my business if it didn’t have my values embedded in it. Not so that I can advertise the farm’s values but so that I am living my life in alignment,” she told us in September.
Over on the East Coast, Larmer described the steep challenges facing local farmers: “Most of the small farmers in the Hudson Valley can’t afford to own their own land, are working at or below the poverty line, 80 or more hours a week during the height of the season, and all that is really alienating.”
That was back in March. Since then, thankfully, the demand for CSA has increased dramatically. According to Larmer, “While farmers are missing the opportunity to connect in person with customers and each other, CSA farmers in particular have actually seen unprecedented demand for CSA, and many are operating larger programs or running wait-lists for the first time. This incredible support is keeping them all afloat during these challenging times.”
Carrie Sedlak, director of the FairShare CSA Coalition in Madison, Wisconsin, agrees, sharing “The COVID-19 crisis has quickly brought the ‘returning to our roots’ theme to bear. Consumers have flocked to CSA as their source for safe, reliable, and nutritious food, and CSA sales are stronger than ever. We have only unofficial data as we don’t survey our farmers until the end of the year,” she shares. “That being said, based on ongoing communications with our farmers, we believe that all (or at least 90%) of our farms sold out this year…or in some cases, sold even more than the number of shares they were originally intending to provide in 2020. Compare this to roughly 60% of our farms selling out in recent years.”