Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs have seen a jump in customers as the effects of the coronavirus cause worry for the stability of the U.S. food supply chain. Some consumers are now opting to buy a seasonal share to receive a weekly supply of local goods, rather than shop entirely at grocery stores.
In previous seasons, this is also how the Cortez-based Southwest Farm Fresh Cooperative shared products from family farms in southwest Colorado to restaurants and direct to consumers. Now, the co-op has gone online with the same mission but a more customized experience.
Launching earlier this month, its online market allows anyone to make a custom order each week they want local goods, rather than buying a share ahead of the season. Farmers list their goods on Fridays and Saturdays and it opens for orders over the next two days. Customers then grab their orders on Thursdays at pick-up locations in Cortez and Durango.
Ole Bye, general manager of the co-op, said the new system is more accessible.
“A lot of people just couldn’t pay up front,” Bye said. “This gives people the option to order what they want on the weeks they need food.”
The pandemic has brought a surge of business to grocery stores, causing some popular items to be out of stock early each day. As customers notice purchase limits on items like eggs and bread, Bye said its time to embrace the value of shopping locally.
“What I’m hoping is that models like ours will thrive as people look for more local, safer food options,” Bye said. “I hope that it will point up the resiliency of community-scale food systems.”
Nina Williams, the co-op’s board president and the owner-operator of Haycamp Farm, one of the vendors, says this will also help farmers in a season where restaurants may not be buying as much of their goods.
“This is a great alternative for producers as well as consumers,” Williams said.
Orders can be placed online each week from Sunday morning through Monday evening on the co-op’s website. Customers pick up orders Thursday evenings at either 30 N. Beech St. in Cortez or at 750 S. Camino Del Rio in Durango.
Hear KSJD’s full interview with Bye and Williams below.