In the Fall of 2008, Geneseo students Stephanie Aquilina and Yolanda Gonzalez launched the Geneseo Community Supported Market. The project, which fulfills the requirements of their dual Environmental Studies internships with Professors Jordan Kleiman (History) and Ken Cooper (English), connects the Geneseo community with the South Wedge Farmers Market (SWFM) in Rochester.
We chose the SWFM because it is a highly principled market that provides an important link between the Rochester area’s ecologically sound farms and a mixed-income, racially and ethnically diverse urban neighborhood--a demographic traditionally underserved by farmers markets and organic growers. We also liked the SWFM's strong commitment to the development of a local food system, which, among other things, has led them to restrict participation to farmers located within a 100-mile radius of the market.
The Geneseo CSM is based on the more familiar concept of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), in which a farmer (usually organic) sells shares of the harvest to raise capital prior to the growing season. In return, CSA members receive a basket of produce every week or so and have an opportunity to do a day or two of work on the farm during the growing season. The farmer is able to distribute his/her economic risk, and the CSA member gets local, responsibly produced food at a discount and helps build a sustainable local food system in the process. CSMs work on the same principle, but instead of buying from a single farmer, members buy shares from a farmers market, and their baskets of produce are filled by multiple farmers selling at the market.
As part of their internship, Steph and Yolanda recruited Geneseo students and community members to buy shares and organized the biweekly pick-up and drop-off of the food. In addition, they created a webpage and blog for the CSM and helped the SWFM conduct customer and farmer surveys to determine the strengths and weaknesses of this cutting-edge program. Steph and Yolanda also created an "operating manual" to facilitate smooth transitions to future Geneseo CSM managers.