Everyone wants access to fresh, healthy food. Lots of people think they can’t afford it. I bet you can. Here’s how.

When I first started blogging about my little farm and garden, I got a rather nasty snark attack from a struggling artist who angrily denounced me as a foodie, showing off my “privilege”. Apparently, digging in the dirt to productive ends for purposes of self sufficiency is exactly like working on Wall Street.

Fieldwork. It’s totally, like, glam.

I think it is far more of a privilege to be able to fly about to comic conventions, eat in restaurants, and enjoy the largesse of public services in cities as this person does, than it is to live a simpler, lower cost lifestyle that has less impact on the environment, but requires an investment of physical labor equity.

Putting all this together was just like partying at a comic book convention. Not.

If the point she is trying to make is that not everyone can afford fresh food, well, no, they can’t. But not everyone chooses to live in the technology trap of a city, and accept the tradeoff therein. Almost everyone who is not truly disabled in some way that forces one to live in an urban area to get necessary services, chooses to trade the convenience of city living for the far lower financial cost – but high labor cost – of country living.

Not everyone can do it.

I grow my own potatoes. They’re fabulous.

Many people can afford to access fresh food, and they don’t have to be a foodie to get it.

In almost every major metropolitan area, and most rural areas, you will find farm shares or CSA’s, “Community Sponsored Agriculture”.

A CSA is, basically, a food subscription service.

mmmMMMMMmmmm fresh poultry…

Depending on the program (and they vary widely between suppliers,) the CSA will supply weekly, biweekly, or monthly food subscriptions for a flat annual fee which will cover the farming season, usually around half the year. If you live in California where the season is long, you can get a year-round subscription.

The farm will provide you with a prescribed amount of food per drop based on whatever is in season. My family is looking at one agricultural farm share for next year which costs $20 per week for a half bushel of fresh produce, which is about 20 LBS of produce. This will include fresh fruit like blueberries, or herbs, or asparagus. The farmer picks what you get.

Because we grow a lot of our own food, we really don’t need a major farm share subscription. We’d just like to supplement what we grow with food from a farm that meets our same organic standards.

Our local farm share also offers Farm Credit programs.

For a fee of $100, you get $115 of credit and may choose from whatever happens to be available at the moment. So, if you have a CSA and happen to get eggplant, and you can’t stand eggplant: goodie. You won’t get stuck with eggplant. This farm also takes barter and has payment plans. They are committed to turning no family away. They also have intern programs that will allow you to work in exchange for food.

Almost every farm share program has a wide variety of plans from which you can choose what best suits you. You just have to do a bit of shopping around.

If you can’t afford to drive out to a farm or only have access to public transportation, most farm shares have drops at city farmer’s markets where you can pick up your bushel of goodies. You never have to go out to the east forty to get your food.

Farm shares cover more than veggies: my family purchased a meat farm share this year that we are crazy about. The once a month drop brought us the very best meat we have ever eaten in our lives. Grass fed, open range. We were able to go directly to the farm and check out the conditions. The young family that owns the farm is lovely, and the animals are happy and very friendly. I spent a jolly afternoon playing stick fetch with the dogs surrounded by a curious flock of turkeys.

Here’s one now.

He’ll be with us in spirit, soon.

The meat at our farm share is a little more expensive than standard grocery meat (but less expensive than high-falutin’ organic markets,) and the quality is outstanding. We also get interesting cuts, and choices of rabbit, steaks, chickens, turkey, lamb, and the very best sausages I have ever tasted. I get cravings for these sausages, of which the farm produces about five varieties. We’ve had nothing but good things from our meat farm share.

Our first veggie farm share was a total rip off. We did not realize just how far away this farm was (and did not realize there was a farm share not five minutes from our house,) and ended up driving a two hour round trip to get our veggies every two weeks. This seemed like an adventure at first, but after awhile it got tedious. The poor quality of the produce was evident from the start. I get better veggies out of my own garden.

This farm isn’t a serious working farm at all, but someone with a back yard garden. Turns out they don’t even grow a lot of their own produce, but they barter for it from others. Most of the potatoes and other veggies we received were not fresh. Other farms shares not only grow all their own stuff, but give you double the amount we got per bag besides. We really made a bad deal on our first veggie farm share. This farm doesn’t seem to be getting much business, so I doubt they’ll be plaguing other customers for much longer.

We’ve never had, nor have we heard of bad deals on other farm shares.

Farm shares come in many forms: there are also milk farm shares, egg shares, wool shares, honey, cheeses, and combinations of the above. Since we get most of our eggs for free from local ducks, we sure don’t need eggs, but boy, do I love artisan cheeses!

Interested? OK.

Local Harvest is a great resource for finding local farm shares based on your zip code.

None of our local farm shares were listed with Local Harvest, and that is why we ended up getting stuck with a substandard agricultural CSA even more in the middle of nowhere than we are. You’ll probably have better luck than we did. The website has lots of good information, too. Highly recommended for most of you, didn’t work out for us.

Live in an urban area? You’re in luck. Many farm shares focus on metropolitan types. This one serves the New York City area, and delivers.

Here’s another in NY.

The CSA choices in California are awesome, as the climate allows for the best produce in the country. What we pay here for beef makes my California friends drool, while we are crying at the low cost of their fruits. My friend Val Trullinger sent me a pick of a typical farm share delivery that she gets for $30 per week, and it’s enough to live on, if you go vegetarian. But she pays double what we pay for meat.

UPDATE: Farm Fresh to You comes HIGHLY recommended.

EDIT: YES, you can use government assistance funds (food stamps) to purchase farm fresh foods at farmers markets. Here is an example in Rhode Island.

Would you like to have your own plot on a city farm? Here’s how.

Growing your own food is wonderful. Watch out for snakes.

Check out this city farm community in San Diego.
Add your sweat, get some food.

In Portland, the community garden revolution adds 1000 plots.

Community food gardens in Los Angeles, where you can rent our own plots.

You can either denounce people who grow their own food as privileged foodies, or you can keep spending money on junk food, flying to conventions, buying comic books, and dining in restaurants while sitting in front of your expensive computer and complaining that you can’t afford fresh food.

A CSA for fresh food is no more privileged or exotic than self publishing a comic book, and we all know how making comics is just for rich people! Righty-o.

If you are willing to do a little research and cut out just a few restaurant meals a year, most of you can afford fresh food. Or you can afford to grow it yourself.

I’ve given you the info. The choice is yours.