For Shared Ground Farmers’ Cooperative, a co-op based in Falcon Heights owned primarily by immigrant farmers, the events of 2020 were a turning point. The pandemic had eliminated produce sales at a third of the markets they counted on, and the uprising following George Floyd’s killing had created additional food insecurity. So, they devised a new CSA program, Food for the People.
Last year, their Food for the People program provided CSA boxes to 63 in-need and working-class families within Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities over 18 weeks. It helped low-income people in the Twin Cities access high-quality, nutrient-dense food that’s either too expensive or inaccessible in their neighborhoods. Plus, it paid the farmers growing the food a living wage.
How did they do it? Pre-pandemic, Shared Ground supported itself through the individual families that subscribe to CSA shares, as well as by selling to restaurants and wholesale partners. When that restaurant portion all but disappeared, things turned around quickly in an unexpected way.
“There was a huge outpouring of support,” recalls Andrea Eger, CSA and wholesale coordinator at Shared Ground. “Last year, people really got why CSAs are so important in a huge way.”
Amid the crises of 2020, Shared Ground’s CSAs rose from 175 (roughly the average amount of subscriptions for them) to 300, completely selling out—and not counting the additional 63 pro bono shares distributed through Food for the People.
The rapid increase in CSA sales was a pleasant shock, but Eger has a good idea of what led to it.
“Being born and raised in the U.S., I had never seen empty shelves like we were seeing in February and March. I think people were really confronted with how fragile our food system is. There was kind of a kick, like: ‘Oh, my gosh, local food is incredibly important.’”
Then, after the killing of George Floyd, Eger noticed a shift in focus toward supporting local BIPOC communities.
“Because we work with so many immigrants and BIPOC people, there was sort of a reinvestment in social justice and food justice. People were putting their money where their mouths were—or where their beliefs were—by supporting a cooperative like us.”
The co-op partnered with Divine Natural Ancestry, a local collective that fights for reparations and aims to heal trauma through community support. Shared Ground prepares the CSA shares—which consist of fresh in-season produce, some including cheese and eggs—and Divine Natural Ancestry oversees distribution. The co-op works with other local BIPOC organizers to identify families in need and manage distribution on a weekly basis.
If you want to help provide fresh produce to families in need, there’s a simple (and tasty) way to do it. When signing up to receive a CSA, if you go for a half share (enough produce for one to two people), you have the option to make it a “solidarity share.” This means you pay the price of a full share, with the difference going to the Food for the People project. Shared Ground also has plenty of volunteer opportunities.