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As Food Supply Chain Breaks Down, Farm-To-Door CSAs Take Off

Farm field being irrigated with mountains in background and tractor in foreground

Full Belly Farm, a 450-acre, organic farm, in California's Capay Valley northwest of Sacramento, is busier than ever trying to ramp up production to meet soaring demand. (Full Belly Farm)

Images of some American farmers dumping milk, plowing under crops and tossing perishables amid sagging demand and falling prices during the deadly coronavirus pandemic has made for dramatic TV.

But it's not the whole story.

"We had a reporter call here and say, 'We want to see some produce rotting in the field and milk going down the drains,' " said Judith Redmond, a longtime farmer in California's Capay Valley, northwest of Sacramento. "And I said, 'Well, actually, that's not what's happening in the Capay Valley.' "

Redmond, a founding partner of the 450-acre, organic Full Belly Farm, is busier than ever trying to ramp up production to meet soaring demand.

From California to Maine, the movement known as community supported agriculture (CSA) is booming. Members buy a share of a farm's often organic harvest that gets delivered weekly in a box. CSA programs almost everywhere report a surge in memberships and growing waiting lists.

"The interest in getting local, fresh, organic produce just has skyrocketed during this crisis," Redmond said.

As with many farms, the restaurant and farmers market sides of her business have cratered. But the CSA side, which includes business across the San Francisco Bay Area, has jumped to 2,000 boxes a week. "We've doubled our CSA box numbers and quadrupled our add-ons like wheat flour, oils like olive oil, nuts, fruit juices, even yarn," Redmond said.

Rows of farm produce like cabbage, mountains in the background.
400-acre, organic Full Belly Farm, in California's Capay Valley north of Sacramento, is busier than ever trying to ramp up production to meet soaring demand. CSA programs almost everywhere report a surge in memberships and growing waiting lists.
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