A report released this month proves that the Bed-Stuy CSA is cheaper than both the organic produce retailers in NYC and neighborhood grocery stores. Had members of the Bed-Stuy CSA bought the same produce at the Union Square Green Market, they would have paid $355 more. Members would have paid $250 more at Whole Foods. Additionally, members would have paid $27 more for non-organic produce from Foodtown on Fulton Street.
While members would have paid $85 less to purchase their produce at Met Foods on Marcus Garvey Avenue, the report reveals that much of the produce available through the CSA was not available at Met Foods. Furthermore, Met Foods does not carry organic produce. Essentially, for $2 – $4 more per week, residents of Bed-Stuy can purchase pesticide-free, higher quality produce through the Bed-Stuy CSA. The Bed-Stuy CSA is truly an opportunity for residents of varying income levels to have access to fresh, high- quality produce.
The Bed-Stuy CSA, a community-led program at the Magnolia Tree Earth Center, began in 2006 to provide residents with pesticide-free, fresh produce from a local farmer of color. The program is essentially a vegetable club. Residents purchase “shares” in Conuco Farm. In exchange, members receive a weekly box of produce-enough to feed a family of four-from June through October.
Full shares cost $400 for the year, or $350 for low-income families making under $25,000 per year. This year, the Bed-Stuy CSA is also selling half shares for smaller households (recommended for households of 1-2 individuals). Half shares cost $250 for the year, or $200 for low-income households.
Ideally, members pay for their “shares” in full in early spring. These payments provide Conuco Farm financial stability during the most expensive time of the year. Instead of being forced to take out high-interest loans, Conuco Farm uses the CSA payments to purchase seeds, hire laborers, and make repairs in advance of the harvest season. However, members may also pay in installments, or pay with food stamps throughout the season.
Conuco Farm, based in upstate New York and owned by Hector Tejada, a Dominican farmer, delivers the produce each Thursday to Magnolia Tree Earth Center on Lafayette Avenue, across from Tompkins Park, for members to pick up that evening.
The program began to address the growing disparities in health and food and its lack of accessibility in Bedford-Stuyvesant. One in three Bed-Stuy residents suffer from diabetes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death and hospitalization in the neighborhood. Both of these diseases can be prevented with exercise and a healthy diet high in vegetables. However, fresh vegetables are virtually impossible to purchase in the neighborhood. Considering these factors, the Bed-Stuy CSA and Conuco Farm are dedicated to filling this need. The group aims to be accessible to low-income residents in the neighborhood-those who have been forgotten by local grocery stores for decades and have the least access to alternatives.
For more information about the Bed-Stuy CSA, including a copy of the price comparison report and its 2007 brochure and application, please call 718.387.2116 ext. 12, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The group also has a web site at http://www.bedstuycsa.wetpaint.com.