History of the Coalition
Band of Farmers is a coalition of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms serving the greater Chicago area. Borrowing heavily from the groundbreaking work of FairShare CSA Coalition in Madison, Wisconsin (formerly MACSAC), Band of Farmers joined forces primarily to collaborate on educating consumers about local foods in general and the CSA model in particular.
As the local foods movement has gained momentum over the last decade, the number of farms serving the Chicago area has grown, and more of them have chosen to market directly to consumers through the CSA model. That's all to the good, and there are plenty of potential customers for CSAs in the region; Band of Farmers is created to collectively reach out to them.
Why Band of Farmers?
Farmers operating within the CSA model have historically been very eager to work together. Reaching out through an email listserv for area farmers (typically used for sharing farming tips and opportunities), Jody Osmund of Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm asked the question, “Does anyone see a need for a marketing coalition?" Several farmers answered the call, including Julia McDonald of Peasants' Plot who saw the creative potential of many of her farmer friends. That creative potential translated into the first annual Farmer Talent Show in 2013. Together with a dozen or so farms who had met at farmers markets or in new farmer classes, Band of Farmers set out with the mission "to spread the good word of CSA and why it is the best way to support your local farming community." In Fall of 2013, with the assistance of Illinois Stewardship Alliance, the Band of Farmers created a marketing opportunity for several CSA farms through a Federal employees' health fair in one of the Federal buildings in Chicago. Building on that effort, the Band of Farmers worked with FamilyFarmed to create a CSA Pavilion at the 2014 Good Food Festival held in March at the UIC Forum. The participating farms capped off a long day by performing that night in the second annual Band of Farmers Talent Show at the Hideout in Chicago.
With the realization that these labor-intensive events were too difficult for any one farmer--even with a dedicated troupe at her side--it was decided to formalize the relationship with Illinois Stewardship Alliance to create a coalition of CSA farms that serve the greater Chicago area. That coalition--which retains the Band of Farmers name--became operational just in time for marketing the 2015 season.