Eastie Farm Looks to Expand Community-Supported Agriculture

At a recent community meeting Eastie Farm’s Max Chezem said the neighborhood’s popular community building urban farm is looking to expand its Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

Eastie Farm, which has been dedicated to pursuing climate justice, improving food access, and fostering community resilience through the development of interactive urban agricultural spaces since 2014, started up a CSA program last year.

“We started doing a CSA last year and it’s been very successful,” said Chezem. “Our hope is to expand it in the current year and one of our biggest goals for the present year is to make that CSA program more generally accessible through language and financial support.”

CSA’s are an alternative, locally based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production.

CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest. Once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme.

CSAs generally focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community, often using organic or biodynamic farming methods, and a shared risk membership–marketing structure. This kind of farming operates with a much greater degree of involvement of consumers and other stakeholders than usual — resulting in a stronger consumer-producer relationship.

“The program will begin in April and run through November for a total of 32 weeks,” said Chezem. “The regular price is $20 a week for a half share which is appropriate for a family of two or three or $30 a week for a full share which is appropriate for a family of four or more. We have sliding scale subsidies available through funds provided by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and the Mayor’s Office of Food Access in the city of Boston. Those subsidies can extend all the way down to making the boxes completely paid for for families that have the most need.”

Chezem said all the produce within the boxes is from farms within 100 miles of Boston.

“We pay close attention to the farming practices of the farms that we sourced from,” said Chezem. “Of course some is sourced from our own farms in East Boston, but due to the amount of need in the neighborhood for fresh produce relative to the current availability we thought it prudent to source from some of the farms that we’ve worked with in the past.”

Chezem said Eastie Farm will be packing the CSA boxes right here in Eastie, which he hopes will create employment in the neighborhood and also make the process easier.

“We have several pickup sites,” he said. “One is the Sumner Street garden down the block from Maverick and also from our Border Street garden across the street from the Umana School as well as from our newest site at 6 Chelsea Terrace. We also are offering delivery for those who need it or want it.”

Chezem said residents can find out more information on Eastie Farm’s website in English or in Spanish at www.eastiefarm.com/csa.

One resident at the meeting commented, “We were CSA members in 2021 and had an amazing experience. Max and his team are awesome.”

Chezem said it is really Eastie Farm’s goal with the CSA this season to make the produce available to those in need.

“So please refer anyone you know that needs assistance to us,” he said. “We do have funds to cover boxes for those that need it and we want to make sure that everyone in the neighborhood has access to produce. Many residents don’t really have convenient access to a full service grocery store without having to drive so we want to try to combat that and think about ways that we can structure our food system so that we don’t have to have every single person drive to the grocery store and then drive back home. That’s not fuel efficient. It’s not traffic efficient and our whole thought process with this is how can we make things environmentally friendly.”

According to studies, CSAs benefit the community in which they are established. A large majority of CSAs organize social or educational community events. Events include potlucks, farm tours, and events for children of shareholders, and educational opportunities for the community and local schools. CSAs often donate unclaimed shares, organize donations from shareholders, donate a portion of their harvest to food banks, and have scholarships. Many CSAs also offer work-trade programs for low-income members of the community.

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