My farmer and me
September 2007
This year I’m part of a group of La Coop fédérée employees taking part in Équiterre’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Now I have my very own family farmer! Like all the program participants, I paid a fixed amount at the start of the season and each week I receive a basket of freshly picked biological vegetables to bring home.

The farmer himself delivers our baskets to La Coop fédérée’s head office. I have thus been able to meet him and talk with him a little about his farm and its activities and, of course, about the weather. But that’s not all. I’ll be visiting him during the summer to lend a hand on the farm for a few hours. The visit is part of the CSA concept, the aim of which is to link the food producer and the consumer in a relationship marked by confidence and mutual help.

During 2007, some 25,000 citizens and approximately 100 farms are benefiting from the program in Québec. And supply can’t keep up with demand! Families are on a waiting list – that’s just how popular the concept is! Not bad at all for a program that involves departing from conventional buying habits and, what’s more, entails somewhat of a risk since you pay in advance not knowing exactly what you’re going to get in the baskets you receive. According to a study on the CSA market in Québec (“Le marché de l’ASC au Québec”) recently conducted by Darvida Conseil, the principal motivations of consumers registered in the program are: health, protecting the environment, supporting local producers, the quality, taste and freshness of the food, and the absence of pesticides.

Generally speaking, if people are prepared to enter into a true partnership with the person producing their food, it’s because they want to feel confident about what they’re getting. Eating well is essential to maintaining quality of life and when you don’t know what country the food you’re buying is from, how can you know whether what you’re getting is really healthy for you? Just since this past spring, there have been cases of American spinach and lettuce contaminated with coliform bacteria, as well as salmonella-tainted sesame seeds. And last month, an Italian-British study confirmed that exposure to pesticides significantly increases farmers’ risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. So it’s only normal to be worried about possible pesticide residue on our food, especially when it comes from countries whose regulations are less strict.

In short, with regard to food, if you’re not producing it yourself, it’s good to know with whom you’re dealing. And it’s not a question of badmouthing conventional agriculture and praising bioagriculture. Not all biofood is necessarily good for you. After all, coliforms and salmonella are entirely natural! What threatens the wholesomeness of our food, regardless of the type of production involved, are poor governance practices. This is why consumers feel more reassured when they know the farmer who’s producing what they eat and they can visit the production site.

Taking part in the CSA program is rather like having someone tend your garden for you. You can track the seasons and keep track of how business is for the farmer by looking at what is supplied. When the food baskets are generously filled, you know it’s been a good season and when the contents are not nearly so appealing, you know your farmer has been struggling. Program participants thus share the joys and difficulties involved in agriculture. Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that participation in the CSA program supports our regional economy and reduces transportation distances.

That’s all well and good, you say, but what exactly is in the basket? Each Thursday – delivery day – holds a surprise. A good surprise! The first week, for example, we had asparagus, radishes, lettuce and other familiar vegetables, but also Swiss chard and garlic flower, both of which, I admit, were entirely new to me. Happily, our farmer gives us recipes so that we can prepare his good vegetables without wasting anything. Thus, with a little open-mindedness and goodwill, taking part in the CSA program quickly becomes a veritable gastronomic experience – to the delight of the whole family.

 

Colette Lebel, agr.
Director of Cooperative Affairs
La Coop fédérée
Email: colette.lebel@lacoop.coop
Fax: (514) 858-2025
 



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