Flatbush Farm Share: Organic Vegetables, Affordable Prices, and Friendly Faces
By Julie Pfahler
Photographer: Justin T. Shockley
Good nutrition is a vital aspect of good health. The Flatbush Farm Share is a community of farmers, shareholders, and friends that work together to ensure a sustainable system in which people from all walks of life have access to good wholesome vegetables.
On Wednesday evenings throughout the summer and fall, on the grounds of the Flatbush Reformed Church in Brooklyn, NY, you can find a diverse group of residents filling their bags with Japanese turnips and crunchy heads of lettuce. They weigh snap peas and discuss recipes for garlic scapes and swiss chard. This is not a farm or a farmer’s market. It is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
The Flatbush Farm Share is a partnership between residents of the greater Flatbush community in Brooklyn, NY, and The Farm at Miller’s Crossing in Hudson, NY. The CSA model is a mutually beneficial endeavor for farmers and community members alike. In the spring of each year, community members pay the farmer in advance for weekly shares of vegetables that will come during the summer and fall months (usually June through the end of October). This partnership ensures that farmers have financing to buy seeds and repair equipment early in the season as well as shared risk and reward of a season’s worth of vegetables. CSA members secure a share of fresh, affordable vegetables for 22 weeks of the year.
Expanding on the basic CSA model, the Flatbush Farm Share includes a sliding scale model for pricing and payment so residents of all income ranges can participate in a way that works for their budgets. Members purchase their shares based on income levels and household size. Shareholders making below twice the poverty line have the option to pay on a weekly basis throughout the season. Shareholders receiving food stamps can pay for their shares in part or entirely with their benefits.
"Shareholders making below twice the poverty line have the option to pay on a weekly basis throughout the season."
Lower tier shares are subsidized by a combination of grants, fundraising efforts, contributions from the higher tier shareholders and organizations such as the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH). The Brooklyn end of the CSA is run by volunteer core group that determines funding sources, recruits new members, organizes the vegetable distribution, and everything in between. NYCCAH enhances the core group’s skills with administrative support, food stamp processing, and an AmeriCorps volunteer to assist with distribution and weekly share collections. The sliding scale model has opened up the possibility of fresh, organic, local produce to residents of the community who may not normally be able to afford, or have access to, these fresh vegetables. As an additional bonus, the overall price is generally 15% lower than market price for similar items.
This volunteer-run CSA educates participants on the benefits of locally grown vegetables where there is a direct link between the farmer and the consumer, connecting the community directly to the source of their food. In addition, members participate in environmental projects such as composting and community gardening, run by Sustainable Flatbush, at the shared host site provided by Flatbush Reformed Church. Buying local brings people close to their food source, establishing a greater sense of food security in knowing the origin of one’s food.