Because agricultural diversity is important, because locally-grown crops make good environmental sense, and because farmers don't need subsidies, but they do need reliable customers, I am becoming a believer in Community-supported Agriculture. CSA's work on a very simple premise, invest in farmers and receive "stock options"--i.e., produce, meat, eggs, bread and more.
There are some additional bonuses, you know where your food is coming from, you can choose whether it is certified organic or whether the farm uses organic and sustainable practices or not. you can be informed how your meat is raised and processed and if your eggs come from chickens that aren't pent up in cages. You can even choose to visit your food and help to grow it.
Finally, for people like me, if you have a less than green thumb, you can be assured that someone is doing it well and enjoys it.
I went to a local CSA fair today and met Kevin Powell who raises Mulefoot pigs in Strawberry Point--as a pork fancier, it was cool to learn how this type of pig, which was almost extinct is being raised in Iowa. Kevin has about 40 head of pigs on his families farm. I also met Christy from the Ecollective Farm that has happenings out on their place. I met Mark from Scattergood School that has a 30 family CSA group and Andrew from Grinnell Heritage Farm that has been in his family for 152 years.
My wife and I are likely to buy a spring share from Grinnell Heritage and a fall share from ZJ Farm in Solon. We will likely get our summer produce from Oak Hill Farms in Atalissa. The great thing is all of these deliver to the Farmer's Market so we can pick up eggs, breads, plants etc. at the same time.
CSAs are not risk free, if the growing season is lousy, farmer and partners both are affected, but the good news is that the risk is shared and thus better for all.
If you've thought about going local, check the local foods connection blog out.