Monday, 11 February 2013

Agriculture fair brings farmers, customers together

A frequenter of farmers markets, Rush Shortley has become interested in community-supported agriculture.

“I thought it’d be a good idea to invest in this type of program,” Shortley said.

Shortley’s interest in CSAs brought him to the Mercer Park Aquatic Center on Sunday, where Local Foods Connection and the Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department were hosting the city’s Community Supported Agriculture Fair. The fair featured a dozen farmers in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids area, who set up tables displaying their products.

In a CSA program, community members pay a farmer an annual membership fee that covers the production costs of the farm. Those who buy into the farm receive a weekly share of produce during the growing season.

“This is a fair to help promote the CSA farmers,” said Laura Dowd, founder and executive director of Local Foods Connection. “Not all of them have booths at the farmers market, so they don’t have a lot of exposure to the public.”

Now in its ninth year, Dowd said the CSA fair has “grown tremendously” since its first year when two area farmers participated. Dowd attributes the growth to the growing public interest in CSAs.

Although the ultimate goal is to get more CSA customers signed up or at least get them a good idea of which farmer they want to support, Dowd said the fair also was about creating awareness.

“I would like people to learn what’s behind the food they eat: the families and the hard work,” she said. “I would like people to learn those farmers need the support of the community.”

Derek Roller, who runs the Echollective Farm CSA, and Jarrett Mitchell, who is starting a coffee CSA to go along with his coffee shop, Wake Up Iowa City, said the fair provided a venue for farmers and customers to have some valuable face time.

“It’s pretty helpful for me,” Roller said. “I tend to meet a handful of new people. It’s about the best exposure I could think of for new people.”

Mitchell said the fair served as a reminder that the growing season is just around the corner.

“It’s just a great preamble to the springtime and the summertime,” he said.
Original Article Here

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