High Country CSA is a multi-farm project in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina linking local farmers directly to consumers—and now we're raising money to expand a program that makes CSA shares of fresh, organic food accessible to low-income families while simultaneously building resilience in the local-food economy.
Why it's needed:
In this region, more and more people are struggling to put fresh food on the table. People here live under the double pressure of high housing costs and low wages—according to the most recent US Census, housing costs in Watauga County are 50 percent higher than the North Carolina average, reflecting high demand for vacation homes from people who live elsewhere, while median household income is $34,497, or 26 percent below the state average. And the poverty numbers are sobering: 27 percent of Watauga County residents live under the federal poverty line, much higher than the state average of 16 percent. Furthermore, in the multi-county High Country region, nearly half of all residents live under the income threshold used by federal programs to establish need for aid.
"When a CSA prices vegetables and meat in a way that begins to compensate farmers for their expenses and the work involved in organic production, it becomes unaffordable for a huge swath of our community," Maverick Farms director Hillary Wilson says. "It's a bind." She says that it is not uncommon for farmers to live below the poverty line themselves, and most depend on off-farm jobs to support their families.
Since the beginning, the HCCSA has been committed to making our shares economically accessible. First, we got certified in 2010 to accept EBT/SNAP benefits. Then last year, after many conversations with farmers, CSA members, and others involved in developing the local food system, we decided to raise money to further subsidize shares for low-income people. We raised $13,000 and launched the Cost-Share program, funded by community donations and grants from the Appalachian District Health Department, the Children’s Council and the Seeds of Change Initiative (Heifer USA). HCCSA was able to provide half off the price of catalog orders and a $200 discount on shares for low-income community members, so that a family with EBT/SNAP benefits could use food stamps to buy $15 worth of organic produce each week for $5. The HCCSA provided Cost-Share memberships to 35 families in 2012—a third of total membership. Success!
Now, with your help, we can expand the program to include even more families, while also building stability and resilience in the local farm economy. Working together, we can find local solutions to local problems!
highcountry at gmail dot com