Northland CSA Guild and CHUM aim for another shelf of fresh produce – Reuters
DULUTH — CHUM and the
team up again to bring fresh produce to the food department.
This means that in the spring and summer you can access canned tuna, ramen and locally grown carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and more. And while it’s free for Food Shelf visitors, it comes at a cost.
aims to raise $200,000 for the Minnesota FoodShare March campaign. The first $60,000 will cover the Community Supported Agriculture shares of the 12 farms in the Guild Region that stretch from Barnum to Bayfield.
“He’s supporting an entire community, not just people who are hungry, but people who will produce and create food,” CHUM distribution director Scott Van Daele said.
The CHUM started this pilot program last year with the help of the CSA Guild, and their efforts have secured nearly 4,800 pounds of fresh produce for residents of the Twin Ports and Iron Range.
“To see the reaction of people not having to scrounge up a bad banana or two or a half pint of strawberries or blueberries that obviously went south. … It was an incredible luxury for our customers,” Van Daele told the News Tribune in September.
Standing in the food shelf at the start of the month, Van Daele reflected on the current conditions. The pandemic has worsened food insecurity and pre-COVID levels are not expected to return until late 2022 or early 2023, he said.
In Minnesota, farms and agribusiness generate about $184 million in annual economic activity, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. A local food production system is more resilient whatever happens globally – climate change, market upheavals or COVID.
Since the pandemic began, all CSAs in the area have sold out early, said Clare Hintz, guild spokeswoman and owner of Elsewhere Farms. Local food provides a stable supply, and the more we can reinvest in our infrastructure, the more food secure we will be, she continued.
Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, allows consumers to buy local food directly from a farmer. And those who buy stocks get the produce of the season while investing in a farm’s long-term development, Hintz said.
CSA shares are often sold months before the growing season, allowing farmers to buy materials and repair machinery, all before the season. Memberships mean fresh vegetables and often perks like farm tours, community events, recipe sharing and more.
Shareholders accept the risks of the season and they trust their farm to do the best job possible, Hintz said.
She has been a full-time farmer for over 10 years and her members have been an integral part of building her operation from the ground up.
“We live in a truly remarkable area where there is a very strong local food ethic. I wouldn’t exist as a company, without exaggeration, without my shareholders,” she said.
His income on a rainy Saturday at the farmer’s market would be a quarter of what it would be on a sunny Saturday, and you can’t build a business around that. Having a CSA gives you confidence that you’re going to have a viable year, she said.
“This farm exists because of the community that surrounds it.”
Agriculture is a big gamble – with changes in climate, weather, critters, drought. You have nerves of steel. We have our own unique flavor here, tough growing conditions. It takes a certain amount of tenacity and creativity that other parts of the country don’t necessarily need, Hintz said.
Also, you have to be really good to be a CSA farmer. Many have years of growing and selling experience; they know their planting schedule and what they can produce in a week. “You have to fill in those boxes,” she added.
It was these unique challenges that led to the guild.
In January 2012, Rick Dalen of Northern Harvest Farm and Janaki Fisher-Merritt of Food Farm emailed in response to an increase in CSAs from the area:
“This group could become something quite valuable. … There are undoubtedly many issues that we CSA farmers need to discuss,” it read.
They started simple, with an annual CSA spring open house, which was a way for people to shop for the farm that suited their needs. And: different farms, different flavors.
Hermit Creek and Food Farm focus on larger portions for families. Elsewhere, Farm, Fairhaven Farm and Small Wheel Farm offer half or smaller sizes. Today, the guild serves approximately 1,000 families in the area.
Their goals are to share information about the CSA model, their operations, support each other and help incubate other businesses. They care about fair trade and ethical buying, and their experience spans decades to years.
Their current members:
Guild members buy supplies together in bulk—compost, potting soil, and seeds—to reduce expenses and shipping costs. Some share agricultural equipment and work closely together for purchases.
They aspire to a model similar to that of Madison, Wisconsin
, which is a favorite location for area operations and Bike the Barn events. The coalition has also produced the “Asparagus and Zucchini Cookbook”.
And while their collaboration with the CHUM is their first, there’s potential for more, said Heather-Marie Bloom, original guild member and owner of Rising Phoenix Community Farm.
For now, the core of this project runs deep for Bloom.
“Who can afford CSA action is a small niche of people. We’re challenged by that fact and we’re all aware of it. It helps close that gap to get action for more people,” Bloom said.
“I received food aid,” she said. I also reached the food shelf and there are hardly any fresh vegetables. For someone who is a vegetarian and has food issues, it was pretty daunting to walk with next to nothing or lots of cereals or breads. Fresh vegetables are important, and with CSA shares, vegetables are accessible to everyone.
To learn more about the Lake Superior CSA Guild, visit
To support CHUM’s Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign
- Drop off food or cash donations at the CHUM, 120 N. First Ave. W.
- To visit
or call 218-727-2391.
- CHUM is this month’s recipient of Whole Foods Co-op’s Give campaign. Round up at register and/or give another dollar amount. All donations go to CHUM and Minnesota FoodShare.