Here in Hamilton, NY, it is not very difficult to find a farm in the surrounding area. Simply leave campus heading in any direction and within a few miles and you will find yourself immersed in corn fields or cattle pasture. Many of these family farms have been in business for decades, and have been passed down from generation to generation. The owners often rely on the products of their farms for the sustenance of their families, and to do this they need the support of their surrounding communities.
There are two major, easy ways for us, as college students, to do this: through signing up for a CSA, or a Community-Supported Agriculture program, or through purchasing goods at the Farmer’s Market. In the 1960s a new fad was taking over parts of Japan, Switzerland, and Germany as a result of the changing food systems and questionable safety measures. CSAs began as groups of farmers and consumers came together to support local, healthy, socially equitable agriculture, according to the CSA Coalition.
In the present day, they have spread throughout most of the country to bring fresh produce to widespread Americans. Members of a CSA receive a weekly share of fresh food from a local farm, usually for an upfront fee at the beginning of the growing season that allows farmers to make their initial purchases. In some cases, members may opt to purchase their weekly share when they choose, but usually CSA members are locked into the farm for the entire season.
While it may seem very easy – pay a fee, pick up from the farm or receive a box of food on your doorstep each week – there are risks involved. In the CSAs in which members pay upfront, they face the unpredictability of the summer season. Depending on the weather conditions, some of the produce may not survive, but the members of the CSA are all in it together. Many CSAs such as Common Thread, located only a few miles from campus, offer a two-month fall harvest program starting at $130, which can easily be split among roommates.
Another way to support the local farms is to attend the farmers’ markets. In Hamilton, the market is open on Saturday mornings from 8-1PM, from May to November. Fall harvest is in full swing when Colgate students return to campus in late August, so it is a perfect time for students to purchase their fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, butters, granola, meats, and MORE! There is so much local food to choose from, and the owners love talking about their farming practices to interested students.
Worried about the cost of fresh produce? While it may sometimes be the case that local food at a market will cost a little more, simply due to the size of the farms compared to large corporations, it is often not that big of a difference. The Farmer’s Market is a great option, especially for those who like to stick to their routine in terms of eating. You can purchase what food you want and how much of it to buy.
So, if you want to help support our local economy, reduce carbon emissions, and eat fresh, local food, be sure to check out these different options this fall! Check out this video to learn more about CSAs and the Farmer’s Market.