Sometimes, you just can’t swing a CSA subscription.
- Your schedule is too crazy.
- Your household is too small.
- Your score on this CSA-readiness assessment is too low.
If this is you, consider a different kind of commitment to a local farm and yourself – buying market credit. You can think of market credits as gift certificates you buy for yourself from a farmer.
How do you get a market credit? Different farmers will handle things differently. Some will keep a notebook, while others might give you a card to keep and bring with you. Either way, you’d have a declining balance account to use at farmers markets that the farmer attends. Credits are offered in increments of $50 – $100 and may expire after a season or be good for as long as a year.
Why market credits? They let you have some of the commitment of a CSA subscription while maintaining more flexibility.
The flexibility comes from shopping at the market rather than receiving a CSA share. Go to the market when you have the time and the impetus to cook. Buy things you know you like or want to try. Weeks you’re out of town or working non-stop, you can skip.
The commitment is both to small farms and to changing your own behavior. CSA subscribers and their upfront payments are crucial to a farm with small margins and capital projects. There’s so much uncertainty built into farming small and sustainably – weather, predators, freak accidents. Removing some of the income uncertainty is a big help.
That’s one side. The other aspect is an upfront financial commitment simply makes it more likely you will eat your local, healthy veggies. If it’s already paid for, how much more likely are you to get, prepare, and eat local produce? Will it tilt the scale between getting to the market and cooking vs. ordering take-out again? This little spur could make a big difference in your feeling good about what you eat.
As a CSA member, I still think CSA programs have an edge over buying credits:
- You’re more likely to share in the rewards as well as the risks. CSA members are more likely to benefit from bumper crops and banner years than market shoppers.
- There’s discipline in eating what the earth provides via local farms on a weekly basis. You learn to eat more produce in more ways, you eat a bunch of healthy food every week, and you better appreciate the different seasons and the good times. Moreover, you avoid that double-edged role of “customer” and rediscover more fulfilling ones based on relationships, not transactions.
Still, if a CSA program is just not an option right now, buying a market credit from a farmer may be the answer. Here are three Atlanta-area farms that offer credits and the farmers markets where you can find them:
- Heritage Farm (website/Facebook): Peachtree Road (Saturdays), Carrollton (Saturdays), Dunwoody (Wednesdays), Douglasville (Thursdays)
- Ivabell Acres (website/Facebook): East Atlanta Village (Wednesdays), Douglasville (Thursdays)
- Stems n Roots (Facebook): Piedmont Park (Saturdays), Douglasville (Thursdays)
In addition, Farmers Fresh CSA offers gift certificates that can be used the same way. Buy yourself some credit up front, order from their online catalog, and have your order delivered to a convenient pick-up location.
The Decatur Farmers Market also offers gift certificates good for any market vendor.