Home About Archives RSS Feed

The Retired Investor: CSAs & Local Farms Make a Comeback

By Bill Schmick
iBerkshires columnist
While much of the nation's farming industry has been decimated by the global pandemic, here in the U.S. one tiny segment of the agricultural market is booming — the CSA.
 
The line at my local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickup station was short this week. As usual, everyone wore masks and waited in line, 6 feet apart. One by one, customers stuffed their carry bags full of lettuce, radishes, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes and whatever else nature's bounty and Kate, our farmer, had planted this season. CSAs charge a seasonal, or sometimes yearly membership fee in exchange, you receive weekly boxes, or bags of fresh veggies, fruits, and more. My membership cost more than $400 this year and I will say it was well worth it.
 
Evidently, I am not the only one who feels this way. Across the country, memberships in CSAs are booming, even as the bigger farms have been forced to slaughter livestock, abort piglets, crush food and destroy perfectly healthy crops for lack of distribution and pandemic-struck supply lines. Some CSAs have had to limit memberships. Others are finding it difficult to handle the demand and hire workers to plant, maintain, and harvest their crops. 
 
A couple of months ago, when grocery stores were selling out of everything and food banks were being overwhelmed, local farmers, who normally supplied produce to restaurants, schools and other commercial businesses pivoted to a new business model by focusing on the grocery store and supermarket consumer in their local areas. 
 
Some farmers actually had already established a "close-loop" community food system where they could offer everything from meat, pork, chicken, baked goods, eggs, and other dairy products, as well as vegetables and some fruit. And what they did not produce themselves, they established business relationships with other farmers to broaden their product lines.
 
In the past, CSAs have survived, but not flourished, as a kind of niche market. Most members were either organic-only advocates, or those who try and support local businesses whenever they can.
 
In my case, I originally started buying at my local CSA a few years ago for health reasons. I liked the fact that my produce was grown organically without chemicals, preservatives, or coloration. The produce also tasted a heck of a lot better. I also liked the ambiance of visiting the farm, trading comments on the weather with the local farmer, and seeing some of my neighbors. So, I guess I qualify in both respects.
 
Fast-forward to this age of coronavirus. Safety has suddenly become a big issue for me. Going to the local supermarket today feels a little like navigating an obstacle course: "have the carts been cleaned, where are the hand sanitizers, which way do the aisles run, where's his mask, is she going to crowd me, should I self-checkout, or take a chance with a live cashier?" 
 
If I sound paranoid, it is because I am. At my CSA, things are more manageable. I feel I have more control of my environment. No one sneezes or coughs on the veggies, or handles them. That is worth a lot to me.
 
 The question I ask is: whether this short-term demand for locally-produced CSA produce last, or will it die on the vine as soon as a COVID-19 vaccine is developed?
 
My hope is that once you try it, you'll like it. It might be a bit more expensive than shopping at the local supermarket, but believe me, it is worth every extra penny. 
 

Bill Schmick is now the 'Retired Investor.' After working in the financial services business for more than 40 years, Bill is paring back and focusing exclusively on writing about the financial markets, the needs of retired investors like himself, and how to make your last 30 years of your life your absolute best. You can reach him at billiams1948@gmail.com or leave a message at 413-347-2401.

 

1 Comments
     

Support Local News

We show up at hurricanes, budget meetings, high school games, accidents, fires and community events. We show up at celebrations and tragedies and everything in between. We show up so our readers can learn about pivotal events that affect their communities and their lives.

How important is local news to you? You can support independent, unbiased journalism and help iBerkshires grow for as a little as the cost of a cup of coffee a week.

News Headlines
Tyer Offers Compromise That Would Restore Indoor Dining
Drury Senior Katie Booth Presented with Superintendent's Award
Williamstown Planning Board Hosts Wednesday Panel Discussion on Cannabis
CSX Acquiring Pan Am Railways
Managing Your Retirement Plan Under a New Employer
Second Positive Test Sends Mount Greylock to Remote Learning
Baker: COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout to Begin This Month
Lanesborough Sets Tax Rate for Fiscal 2021
Some Brayton Students Switch to Remote After Positive Case
Holiday Events and Tree Lightings 2020
 
 


Categories:
@theMarket (351)
Independent Investor (450)
Retired Investor (22)
Archives:
November 2020 (8)
October 2020 (7)
September 2020 (6)
August 2020 (6)
July 2020 (10)
June 2020 (7)
May 2020 (9)
April 2020 (9)
March 2020 (5)
February 2020 (7)
January 2020 (10)
December 2019 (7)
Tags:
Debt Ceiling Energy Fiscal Cliff Housing Deficit Oil Greece Pullback Euro Interest Rates Markets Rally Stock Market Commodities Europe Wall Street Election Debt Japan Retirement Economy Crisis Banks Currency Jobs Bailout Congress Europe Recession Federal Reserve Taxes Metals Stocks Stimulus Selloff
Popular Entries:
The Independent Investor: Don't Fight the Fed
@theMarket: QE II Supports the Markets
The Independent Investor: Understanding the Foreclosure Scandal
The Independent Investor: Does Cash Mean Currencies?
@theMarket: Markets Are Going Higher
The Independent Investor: General Motors — Back to the Future
@theMarket: Economy Sputters, Stocks Stutter
The Independent Investor: How Will Wall Street II Play on Main Street?
The Independent Investor: Why Are Interest Rates Rising?
The Independent Investor: Will the Municipal Bond Massacre Continue?
Recent Entries:
@theMarket: Market Cyclicals Take the Lead
The Retired Investor: Pandemic Has Been Good to Pet Industry
@theMarket: Markets Are in a Tug of War
The Retired Investor: The Rise of RCEP
@theMarket: Vaccine Hopes Send Stocks Higher
The Retired Investor: Small-Town America Is in Vogue
@theMarket: Markets Enjoy a 'Biden Bounce'
The Retired Investor: Polling Business Takes a Body Blow
The Retired Investor: Food Faces Escalating Prices
@theMarket: Politicians Play Cat & Mouse With Investors