A New Opportunity for Farmers

The Lempert Report
June 08, 2020

A very real problem that farmers are faced with is a shortage of seasonal workers.

On our weekly podcast, Farm Food Facts, we talk a lot about how farmers are dealing with the problems of climate change and Covid-19 – and we have shared their stories on how some have chosen to rethink their businesses and sell direct to consumers.

A very real problem that they are faced with is a shortage of seasonal workers to pick fruit and vegetables that has put an enormous strain on our supply chain.

And it is a worldwide problem.

The Food Foundation in the UK found that weekly sales of veg boxes have increased by 111 per cent in recent weeks resulting in an estimated 3.5 million boxes being delivered in the UK alone. Euronews reports that with this surge in interest for locally produced food, a post-COVID future is likely to see consumers reluctant to go back to the way things were before.

CSAs have been here in the States for a number of years now, usually operating on a local scale and mostly fro produce items but recent years have seen these subscription boxes expand to include milk, honey, meat and other foods direct from farmers. 

Eight years ago in the UK, the CSA Network was launched to bring farmers and their communities together. Now, news says two-thirds of members in the UK are supplied with all or nearly all of their vegetables by these projects and over 70 per cent of people involved reported that it improved their quality of life, changing their cooking and eating habits for the better.

The most striking benefit, particularly in times of global crisis, is that local farming is often more reliable than the industrial food chain. By avoiding all of the packaging and processing that takes imported food from warehouse to supermarket shelf, putting the food directly into the hands of consumers means less impact on availability when an event like an international pandemic occurs, they write.

So the question is whether here in the US, we will see the same uptick in CSA membership. Until now, CSAs were mostly used by people who wanted fresher foods, and a stronger connection to the farm – now we it evolve to being a more secure resource for our foods?