Local Farmer Crop Box program expands from medical campus to West Campus, becomes more accessible for Wash. U. undergraduates

Danielle Drake-Flam | News Editor

The Local Farmer Crop Box program expanded to West Campus as of 2016, and a new site on the Danforth campus could open as early as this semester.

Originally operating on Washington University’s Medical Campus, Local Farmer Crop Boxes is a program initially started in an effort to provide the St. Louis community with the opportunity to purchase locally sourced produce.

David Smith, head of the Local Farmer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, has been assigned to work with the Washington University community for the last two and a half years. He and the Office of Sustainability have worked to expand the program to West Campus, making it more accessible to undergraduates than it was in its original location at the School of Medicine’s farmers market on the plaza of the BJC Institute of Health last year.

The Office of Sustainability has been looking to partner with a local producer for some time now, and through its internship program back in the 2015-2016 school year, an intern team that was assigned to focus on food was able to finally send out an official requested proposal to local farming programs.

Clara Steyer, sustainability coordinator, said Office of Sustainability selected David Smith’s Local Farmer CSA proposal due to its range.

“I think Local Farmer CSA was chosen because their program offered more flexibility to the consumer,” Steyer said. “Having access to a large network of growers and producers, Local Farmers CSA features a wide variety of products and allows subscribers to customize the content of their box. Additionally, the consumer can put its order on hold if necessary, which is a huge asset of the program.”

Smith, who first began his partnership with Washington University at the School of Medicine, spoke about why he thought he would be a good fit for the Washington University community.

“We had been looking to expand the program, and Wash. U. campus just seemed like a great avenue to get the product out there,” Smith said. “The response has been great so far, and we have been consistently building, so I think it’s been a great deal for both parties.”

The produce is all locally grown at small farms within an hour of the St. Louis area, including Geisert Farms in Washington, Mo.; Double Star Farms in Benton, Ill.; and Earth Angel Mushrooms in Pacific, Mo.

Smith discussed the farms, explaining that this is a great way for students to locally source produce.

“It’s a great option to support local growers,” Smith said, “All of our produce is grown within an hour of St. Louis at local, organic, privately owned, smaller farms.”

Steyer agreed, adding that students are being environmentally conscious by purchasing locally.

“By eating local food, you are reducing your carbon footprint,” Steyer said, “The products mostly being sourced within 150 miles of Wash. U., they don’t travel as much, and, therefore, the greenhouse gas emissions generated are way fewer than if the products were sourced from a far destination.”

Smith also discussed the details of customizing your own box, explaining that Local Farmers CSA is partnered with more than just farms and is able to provide not only vegetables and fruits but also fresh-baked bread, local coffee and meat products, ranging from pork to chicken.

Smith delivers the boxes to students every Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at 7509 Forsyth Boulevard on West Campus. He also hosts a stand during this time, where students can purchase other fresh produce at their convenience, and buyers can also put their boxes on hold or cancel their orders if needed, as all transactions go through Smith.

“That’s one of the great things about the CSA program—is that it gives me the flexibility and is flexible for the customers as well because [they] are able to go on hold for any time,” Smith said. “There’s no huge financial commitment to it; you can cancel at any time.”

While students are excited to have the option to purchase fresh produce, the lack of kitchen space, especially on the South 40, poses the problem of waste.

“It definitely is interesting to me because I know I am getting high quality produce and supporting a local farm,” sophomore Andrew Kochins said. “At college, it would be challenging to fully use it and not be wasteful because I don’t cook my own meals. So, maybe I would be even more interested if I were living off campus and had a kitchen where I regularly cooked meals for myself.”

Students can get involved in the program by going online to Local Farmers CSA and signing up to become a CSA member. Once they become members, students have the ability to place orders for produce, which is delivered once a month in a variety of box sizes. By registering as a Washington University student, students can receive a discounted student box, which costs $19.99 per month. This includes 8-10 fresh produce items. Other box sizes include the Farm Share box at $29.99, a big box at $50 and a customized box, starting at $40.

CSA encourages students to fill out a five-minute survey to help determine the location of a new distribution point on the Danforth Campus.