The little Green Mountain State of Vermont is a real leader in the movement to connect consumers with the farmers that grow their food. There are lots of inspiring, innovative farms and projects taking root in Vermont, thanks, in part, to Vermont’s leaders’ belief in the movement. Luckily for all of us, Vermont’s rock star senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy work hard to advocate for sustainable agriculture and small farms on the national level, and just last week the two introduced legislation in D.C. to expand community supported agriculture (CSA).
The new legislation proposes a competitive grant program through the USDA that would promote and expand community supported agriculture. The program would award grants to nonprofits, extension services, and other agencies to provide support to farmers and producers, ranging from assistance with marketing and business planning to help developing innovative distribution models. The grants would also expand CSA participation through outreach and education, giving particular preference to projects linked to family farms, farms operated by or employing veterans, and projects aimed at making CSAs more accessible to low-income communities that lack access to healthy and affordable foods.
Sanders and Leahy pointed to Vermont’s success with community supported agriculture as an example of the potential of the model. About 100 Vermont farms offer some sort of CSA program, and Vermont boasts more direct sales per capita than any other state. Leahy cited the key ways that CSA provides exciting economic growth in the farm and food sector, and highlighted the need for CSA programs to creatively address the needs of the local community. This legislation would help propel innovation within community supported agriculture–and open it up to a wider swath of consumers–in a time when many families are struggling to put healthy, fresh food on the table.
It’s awfully nice to have Washington power on the side of sustainable agriculture and small farms, and senators who recognize the potential of both the CSA model and the bright young farmers who are dreaming up all kinds of creative variations of that model but lack the support to make it happen. Thank you Vermont for sending Sanders and Leahy to bat!