Writing

The Counter: Traditional CSAs struggle to compete against greater convenience and choice

There have never been more ways to get fresh produce sent to your home, from basic grocery delivery services; to “misfit” and “ugly” veggie startups; to bespoke, plant-based meal kits. But at the end of the day, what’s in a veggie box? Is it merely a collection of assorted produce, or is it a value system? Do you spend those dollars simply to fill your fridge, or are you also trying to support small farmers and local agriculture? Does it matter if the items are USDA-certified organic, or if some items are grown several states away?

As veggie box delivery companies have proliferated, some small-scale farmers say it has become harder to run traditional community supported agriculture (CSA) operations, in which consumers buy a “share” of a local farm’s harvest at the beginning of the growing season. In return for this investment, share owners get a box of whatever produce was harvested. There’s an inherent gamble, in that the consumer shares the risks associated with farming. If it’s a bad year for tomatoes, they may not get any tomatoes.

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Audubon: From Meadow to Marsh, Habitats May Take a Hit During Pandemic

Lesser celandine, with its a small, pale yellow blossoms, looks like an innocuous plant. But the sprawling weed crowds out native species when it blooms in spring and then goes dormant, leaving ground brown and bare through summer and fall. Normally at this time of year, volunteers with the New York New Jersey Trail Conference’s Invasives Strike Force would be pulling up the species and other invasive plants during weekend meet-ups. This year, however, is anything but normal—the group suspended work on March 23.

Across the country this spring as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold, conservation organizations and government agencies have postponed or canceled projects that require groups to meet and work together. Although public health is everyone’s firm priority, gaps in invasive species removal, controlled burns, and habitat restoration can create short- and long-term setbacks to time-sensitive projects

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Civicist: Bed-Stuy Strong: Scaling Mutual Aid During COVID-19

On Tuesday evening, several dozen Brooklynites gathered together in one of the only spaces available to us right now—on Zoom—to sing Happy Birthday. But the honoree wasn’t a person; it was the one-month anniversary of Bed-Stuy Strong, a mutual aid network that was started to respond to the coronavirus crisis in New York City, and to give residents in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant—where I’ve lived since 2011—a way to help and to seek help from their neighbors. Since early March, more than 250 mutual aid groups have emerged in mostly urban neighborhoods across the country, all of them undoubtedly juggling similar challenges of coordinating volunteers, needs, tasks, and money as the crisis intensifies.

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FairWarning: Pesticides and Produce: Environmental Group Lists Cleanest and Dirtiest Fruits and Vegetables

An environmental advocacy group is out today with its annual report on pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables. Raisin lovers, take note.

Nearly all conventionally-grown raisins are contaminated by traces of two or more pesticides, according to test data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture cited in Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, the report by the Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, D.C. The average sample contained more than 13 pesticides, and one sample tested positive for 26. Even most organic raisins sampled by the USDA tested positive for at least one pesticide. The environmental group recommends that consumers buy organic raisins when possible, or avoid raisins in favor of fresh fruits and vegetables with lower levels of pesticide contamination.

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The Counter: Will Michelob’s organic beer really transform American farmland?

The commercial opened on a lone, bearded farmer standing in a dark field. A narrator intoned meaningfully that less than 1 percent of American farmland is organic. But, the female voice continued, we could change that simply by buying Michelob Ultra Pure Gold, the first national, certified-organic beer brand. There was the pop and hiss of a twist-off bottle top, and suddenly we were in the club, only the club was a subway station and a woman carried a six-pack with her onto the train.

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