Traverse City Record-Eagle

Food

June 5, 2014

New program brings CSA shares to disadvantaged

TRAVERSE CITY — Erika Van Dam loved receiving her CSA share from Bluestem Farm, which included everything from chicken and eggs to beets, potatoes, carrots and leeks.

“I really like the idea of supporting a local farmer as opposed to a grocery store,” said Van Dam, of Boyne City. “I also feel really comfortable with their growing practices. I like that they’re organic, and the passion they put into what they do.”

Now Van Dam is helping others reap the farm’s bounty — including pasture-raised heritage-breed pork and warm-weather crops — by donating to its new free and subsidized food program, Help Others Eat Well. Donations will provide more than $200 each for five northern Michigan families who couldn’t otherwise afford to buy CSA shares.

“I think there’s a lot of excitement about this. People want to support it,” said Mary Brower, who owns Bluestem Farm with her husband, Aaron. “I think everyone knows how unfair it is that really great food is mainly accessible to middle-class people and above. And how important the impact is on public health. It’s an investment in our future to have good healthy things to eat.”

The food program concept is deeply-rooted, and came before the Browers established their East Jordan farm in 2012. They met in Alaska at an outdoor program for at-risk youth and interned on a farm for people with developmental disabilities. Their farm work incorporates their social service history and sense of social responsibility, said Mary Brower, a former teacher for at-risk kids in New York and Boston.

Proceeds from the Browers' cookbook and a fall benefit concert by local band Breathe Owl Breathe established the Help Others Eat Well fund. A steering committee of CSA shareholders designed the program. A donation line to their order form raised additional funds from past and present shareholders and community members.

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