The local food trend has become so popular and trendy that it is moving out ahead of general knowledge about it...
I have a friend who was telling me about his roomate who just joined a "CSA" with local deliveries and a choice every week of lots of local things like local pork, berries, and veggies. That is all great, although with that list I am pretty sure I can guess which "CSA" he joined.
But then my friend said he had fresh pasta made with local flour. I said "Really? Spelt pasta?" as this is the primary grain around here which is milled small enough for pasta, most of our local flour is pretty rough. Enough that I add King Aruther's when I make bread, but for pasta? He said that he doubted his roommate knew what he was talking about. I said there are some really great artisianal pasta makers in our area, but none that I was aware of use local flour.
He then told me about the latest discussion he had with his roommate. He had Local Coffee in his share this week. I said, there are some really good local roasters, but he said no his roommate INSISTED that the coffee was grown locally. (I am sure that his "CSA" did not tell him it was locally grown, but neither did they tell him what its origin was.)
Obviously, my friend, knows that there are NOT coffee farms in Northern Ohio. But he could not convince his roommate of this fact. He insisted that everything this "CSA" gives him is grown on local farms. Even his coffee. "There is no reason that a farmer who wanted to couldn't grow coffee in Ohio!" It does not take much knowledge of food to know that you cannot grow coffee in a place where snow regularly passes your knees. I suppose with heated greenhouses it might be possible, $400/lb coffee anyone?
I will reiterate what I have said before. If you do not know your farmer you do not belong to a CSA. The term is being co-opted by people who are operating what they call in England "Box-Schemes" where local food is bought and resold to the customer. There are CSAs in other areas which are run by a group of farms, but farms are at the center, not a third party marketer. Some CSAs offer items from other farms when there is something they do not grow. But again the farm and farmer is at the center of the CSA.
I may never be able to give my members "Locally grown coffee," and there may be years when tomatoes are late because I wait for ours to ripen and do not just buy someone elses. But I think that the difference between the CSA and Box-Scheme is the difference that will mean the success or failure of small family farms.