What exactly is sustainably farming? “Beets” me, but The Good Acre is making strides toward it.
Thursday afternoons are a bit chaotic in University Flats apartment 104. The end of the week is approaching, classes are just getting done for the day, and Katherine Glodoski comes home with a backpack full of produce, potatoes stuffed in one sweatpants pocket and garlic cloves and a red onion in the other.
Fellow roommates and students Erica Ellingson, Ashley Little, and Miranda Bakker are thrilled. Not only because it’s Thursday, of course, but because their share of fresh produce from The Good Acre has come.
Beets, zucchini, squash…you name it, they’ve tried it, or at least attempted to try it. As I step into their cozy apartment to meet with Glodoski, Ellingson and Little, I can tell. From the two yellow squashes sitting on the counter to the kale, cauliflower, and bell pepper salad lingering in the fridge, these roommates consume more vegetables than the average Joe.
Their produce is delivered via a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that began as a partnership between the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) and The Good Acre, a Twin Cities food hub that focuses on expanding the reach of the local fresh food market.
Long story short, CSA is a subscription program for your stomach. Through The Good Acre organization, people from all around the Twin Cities can subscribe to regularly receive a box of fresh produce grown sustainably by local farmers.
“It’s so good because Katherine actually uses all the produce,” Little says.
“She actually knows what to do with the produce,” Ellingson adds.
“Oh, I Google what do with the produce,” Glodoski corrects her with a laugh.
The Good Acre’s produce boxes have launched them a world of exploratory dishes and surprisingly healthy food, and there’s no going back, especially to their freshman dining halls, where opting for vegetables was rarely a possibility.
The Good Acre offers a student-exclusive deal of $100 total for six weeks of produce that typically feeds three to four people each week.
“Good, real food shouldn’t be too expensive for anyone,” says The Good Acre’s CSA manager Anna Richardson. “We wanted to create a student-specific CSA option recognizing that students want to eat well and buy responsibly but are often prohibited by cost.”
Above all, Richardson adds that The Good Acre isn’t just striving for efficiency. The program also aims to establish a sense of community among local farms and the people who invest in them.
Eighty percent of the money made from the Good’s Acre’s CSA program goes back to the farmers, providing income so they can afford to sustainably grow a wide variety of foods. The organization puts time into helping farmers minimize chemical usage, cover crops during the winter, and add organic soil elements such as compost or manure to positively impact the environment.
Another purpose of the program is to help immigrant and minority farmers access food markets across the Twin Cities food system, says Richardson. Above all, Richardson adds that The Good Acre isn’t just striving for efficiency. The program also aims to establish a sense of community among local farms and the people who invest in them.
It certainly shows among the young women of apartment 104, if anything.
“It’s cheap, and it’s supporting local farmers,” Glodoski says. “Best of both worlds.”
“There’s a tangible difference,” Little explains. “I feel really good knowing that we’re supporting farmers, that they’re real people with real lives.”
“I grew up in a household that wasn’t super sustainable,” Ellingson says. “Growing up and realizing how important it is for young people to become sustainable as Earth becomes unable to support more people…it’s important that we all keep that in mind.”
This year, a limited number of 50 student households received a CSA share each week, and The Good Acre hopes to increase the number of shares they can offer in 2018, spreading awareness for student sustainability and health.
In the end, I left apartment 104 with a smile and two acorn squashes, generously given under the impression that they were pumpkins. What’s the next obscure dish on the docket for these young women, courtesy of CSA produce? Banana beet muffins.