In recent years, the growing trend toward consuming more locally harvested food has expanded upon some of the familiar historic seasonal seafood traditions. As farmers’ markets spring up all over the region and programs like community-supported agriculture take root and expand, the result is that the average person is becoming more educated on the value of consuming and buying on the local level. Now more than ever, people are trying to make smart food choices for the benefit of their health, the environment, and the local economy.
Buying local also means buying seasonal. As consumers shop at farmers’ markets and support local harvesters, they are getting reacquainted with what is actually available from our farms and local boats during the different seasons of the year. This heightened sense of awareness toward seasonal availability and a growing demand for the freshest, highest quality seafood available has begun to influence a shift in the seafood markets here in New England. Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever, and topics revolving around seafood sustainability are becoming commonplace. As this trend continues, the value and demand for fresh seasonal seafood will surely intensify.
Cape Ann Fresh Catch
New initiatives like Turner’s Community Supported Fishery partner Cape Ann Fresh Catch are seeking to capitalize on this shift toward the local with the goal of supporting and sustaining the local fleet through incredibly challenging times. In 2009, seeking a way to open new markets for environmentally minded fishermen, create new ties to the community, and address some of the core issues of sustainability that are at the root of our food system, Cape Ann Fresh Catch was created by the Gloucester Fishermen’s Wives Association.
This program is a collaboration between shore-side residents and the local fishing community. It uniquely combines the marketing of fish and community outreach with local support for fishermen by offering fresh seafood, unloaded every morning directly from local boats, to consumers in communities across eastern Massachusetts.
CAFC was specifically designed and implemented to alleviate the current hardships faced by community-based fishermen. With the constant changes in the lives of fishermen, one place where they can begin to take back some control is in their relationships with those who eat what they catch and the price they get paid for their day’s work. Community-supported fishery programs like CAFC open up new markets for fishermen, placing them in direct contact with environmentally minded, socially conscious consumers who are eager to protect one of New England’s oldest industries. More importantly, the organizational framework of the program was designed to accomplish the goal of providing fishermen with a reasonable and fair price for their catch.
CAFC is truly a community-based program, with benefits that expand far beyond providing new economic and marketing opportunities to fishermen. Along with providing direct financial support to fishermen, the program has also created and supported jobs at several shore-side fish processing plants in Gloucester. Locally based food programs like CAFC also ensure consumer transparency in processing standards, which results in ultra-fresh seafood of the highest quality. Expanding on the community-based nature of the program, unclaimed shares of CAFC fish are donated to local food pantries in our partner communities on a regular basis.
Cape Ann Fresh Catch is a truly unique and creative program that has been designed to ensure that the local fishing fleet has a fighting chance of staying afloat during difficult times. The culture heritage and economic viability of our shore-side communities will depend on this sort of wide-scale market transformation to stay viable. Moving forward, the CSF model could be expanded and become the means for keeping the local, community-based fishermen in business. From a wider perspective, it is hoped that the lessons learned from this program will expand upon the trend towards local food and begin to permanently change the way American consumers think about our economy and the food choices they make for their families.
Turner’s Seafood is proud to partner with Cape Ann Fresh Catch in order to provide support for the local fleet and engage the public in making food choices that are healthy for the environment and their families. With one of the most challenging and restrictive years on record, the local fleet could use your support now more than ever. New England’s rich fishing heritage is something worth protecting and supporting so that future generations can continue to enjoy all that is available from our local oceans. Anyone interested in learning more about this initiative should visit the organization’s website at www.capeannfreshcatch.org, where you can also sign up for a seasonal share of seafood.