Every province and region in Canada is unique. I’ve been so lucky to develop friendships with fellow farmers from across the country. And there are some pretty cool things happening everywhere! But one province that has always stuck out for me in terms of agriculture, specifically organic agriculture, has been Quebec. Quebec enjoys beautiful farmland, inspiring farmers, some interesting governmental support programs for farmers, and Equiterre.
Equiterre is an environmental organization and one of the things they want to see is more local, organic food. In particular, community members to have a personal connection to the farm and farmers who feed them. And one of the ways they work towards this goal is through their CSA Network, or Paniers Bio.
Because of Equiterre’s work, Quebec has more land used for small-scale organic farms. More people get to eat wholesome, fresh, and delicious organic food. More young people (and older people) are getting a chance to make it as farmers. Equiterre’s CSA Network has made a big impact.
So, how amazing would it be for every region or province to have a similar network, promoting Community Supported Agriculture or, as it’s also referred to, Community Shared Agriculture?
Hint: It would be very amazing!
Well, our region, the Atlantic Canadian region, is in the early stages of developing such a network. It’s called the CSA Network and its being developed by ACORN (or the Atlantic Canadian Organic Regional Network).
In December, ACORN arranged presentations with two people from Equiterre (a staff member and a CSA farmer) for farmers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and a meeting was later held on PEI. Questions were answered and people got excited. ACORN asked a group of experienced CSA farmers to become the CSA Network Advisory Committee (we’re not on the Advisory Committee but we’re excited about it because the farmers who are, are amazing!). And ACORN created a web resource in order to help community members who want to support local, organic agriculture, find the right farm for them.
CSA programs have been growing in popularity in Atlantic Canada over the years and groups like ACORN and Ecology Action Centre have worked to maintain lists of available CSAs and they’ve done a good job of it. But a list requires customers to click on and read through each farm’s website to see if that farm a) has a drop-off location that they can get to, b) farms according to the values they want to support and, c) grows the kinds of foods they want to eat (more basic or unique crops) in the quantities they need (enough for 1 person or 6?).
The CSA Network website makes it easier for customers to find the right CSA choice for them. But the goals for the CSA Network are also to help the farmers. Sure, help them advertise, but also help them connect to other CSA farmers, find resources and connections where they can continue their education, and become better farmers overall.
The goal of the CSA Network is that CSAs in Atlantic Canada will collectively improve, from both the perspective of the customers and the farmers, and that the CSA movement will grow. That Atlantic Canadian CSA farms will benefit our region socially, economically, and environmentally.
It’s a big, beautiful, and important goal and we have some smart, motivated people making it happen.
Similar to Equiterre, the Network will be membership-based and rely on farmer and shareholder fees to achieve its work. In this initial phase, ACORN has launched an open investment Start-Up Campaign, seeking support from farmers and farm fans to achieve an ambitious first-year promotional plan.
Here at Broadfork Farm, our “CSA” or Market Food Club as we call it is definitely different than most CSA programs around but we still felt like becoming a member of the CSA Network was a good move for us.
If this all sounds like the kind of thing you want to see in your world, visit acornorganic.org/csa/membership.