By Lauren Fairbanks, November/December 2009
Amy Seek envisioned a CSA (community-supported agriculture) share that provided high-quality produce to all members of her community, including those who might not be able to afford the upfront costs (usually around $275 for a half share, $545 for a full share) to participate. Seek, an architect and food activist, is a resident of Flatbush, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, where about 21 percent of residents live below the poverty line. She founded Flatbush Farm Share in March 2009 to help bridge the “disconnect between good food and a whole segment of the population that cannot access it.”
Flatbush Farm Share members get weekly deliveries from the Farm at Miller’s Crossing outside Hudson, New York, 97 miles away. Share prices are based on a sliding income scale. Some families pay a discounted share price (two nonprofits—the Hunger Action Network and the NYC Coalition Against Hunger—subsidize the remaining costs); others can use food stamps and volunteer hours distributing food shares and organizing CSA events in lieu of a full share price. In its first year, the CSA proved itself a success: of the 132 total participants, half qualified for low-income status and took advantage of the subsidy program.
The organization also provides free cooking workshops and holds potluck dinners. One member spoke of the “neighborhood envy” she used to feel about the food options (healthy restaurants, grocers) in other areas of Brooklyn. But now, she says, the CSA bolsters Flatbush to “a new level of livability,” offering healthier and affordable food.