Detroiters can support farms in their community by paying to reserve fresh produce ahead of the growing season.
It’s called community supported agriculture, or CSA, and it’s a model where the risks and rewards of farming are shared by both the farmer and consumer.
“Those shares that are purchased ahead of time help farmers to pay for things that they need,” said Erin Cole, co-founder of Nurturing Our Seeds, a farm on the city’s east side. “It’s a commitment to the farmer that says, ‘We’re here for you and we’re excited about the work that you’re about to do.’”
It gives the purchaser of the CSA a number of benefits, too, Cole told BridgeDetroit, from getting to try all of the produce the farm grows to learning more about their food and health to being protected from food inflation. Food prices are climbing but Cole noted her CSA members will be spared because they already paid for their produce for the season.
Cole’s CSA program got started a decade ago when they offered donation-based food baskets valued at $25. People would donate $30 or even $50 for the basket, in the spirit of community supported agriculture and to showcase the growing desire for fresh food options in the city. For the last six years Nurturing Our Seeds has offered the more traditional CSA program, giving Detroiters with limited and low quality produce options at the grocery store a trusted, healthy replacement.
The roots of CSA are tied to Booker T. Whatley, a Black horticulturist and professor at Tuskegee University in Alabama, who worked on related agricultural models in the 1960s. Whatley believed large-scale, industrial farming would be the death of small, Black-owned farms at a time when Black farmers were regularly discriminated against and denied for loans and grants. Whatley believed a model that directly connected consumers to farmers would help address the issue by turning to the community for support, rather than the government.
Farms continue to benefit from Whatley’s frameworks. During COVID-19, small farms have shown themselves to be more resilient to the effects of changes in the economy than global large-scale farms are.
Here’s how a CSA works: Before the season starts community members buy a CSA share. In return, they receive portions of the harvest throughout the season in boxes, called a CSA Box.
Additionally, many of Detroit’s farms offer add-ons to the CSA, like eggs, flowers, and tea. And, some of the farms even accept EBT/SNAP.
Check out our list below of CSA’s in Detroit to see how you can support local farmers while trying diverse produce items each week.
Nurturing Our Seeds
Purchase a 20-week small CSA box for $300, or a large for $550, which includes five flower bouquets as well. Pickup is twice a month at 7733 Helen Street.
Purchase a full, 20-week share for $600, or a half share for $330 over ten weeks. City Commons also offers a customizable CSA option that allows you to choose the vegetables in your box, and what weeks you get it, for $215-$400. The farm offers Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday pick-ups at locations across the city.
Purchase a full share for $250 or a half share for $130. This farm also offers mushroom-only shares. For every two full shares purchased, Adamah Farms offers one to a family in need in the neighborhood at a discounted price. Pick up is Thursdays and Fridays at Peaches and Greens Produce Store. Delivery is available as well.
Deeply Rooted Produce
Full shares and half shares are available. Choose from a number of add-on items as well, from local mushrooms to vegan meal prepped food to hibiscus jam. The official deadline to register has passed, but you can still purchase a CSA. Pickup and delivery are both available. This farm’s CSA can be purchased using EBT/Bridge card and you can also receive $20 of free produce when you spend $20 with the Double Up Food Bucks Incentive.
This farm offers different sized CSAs ranging in cost from $399 to $1,000 for spring, summer, and fall. Pickup or delivery is available. They’re sold out of CSAs for now, but will have shares available again in July, for $399-$650, for 14 weeks. The CSA can also be purchased with EBT/Bridge cards.
Along with your CSA, this farm also gives you updates on the farm, tips for storing your produce, and recipes for the produce of the week. Pickup is at 2334 Buchanan Street or delivery is available within 20 miles. Fisheye Farms is sold out of CSAs for this year, but you can still stop by their farm stand on Fridays.
CSA not your jam? There’s still plenty of ways to get fresh and local produce in Detroit including farm stands and farmers markets.
Oakland Avenue Urban Farm, D-Town Farm, Fisheye Farms, and Brother Nature Produce all have farm stands that allow you to go out to the farm and pick up the produce directly.
Online, you can shop for local produce through Shop Detroit Farms, a marketplace created by Oakland Avenue Urban Farm and D-Town Farm. Also online, Keep Growing Detroit and Eastern Market offer the option to customize a produce box ahead of time, and pick up in person.
And if none of those options interest you, there’s always the trusted farmers market. There are a number of farmers markets in Detroit including: Northwest Detroit Farmers Market, The Congregation Farmers Market, and Eastern Market’s Saturday and Tuesday markets. To find more markets, check out a map here.