On Earth Day, we had the pleasure of chatting with a group of farmers, advocates, and stewards of small farms and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). We were joined by Tess Romanski from the Fair Share CSA Coalition, Trixie Wessel and Jarret Nelson from Glynwood Farm, Kate Becker from Cat Tail Organics, and Evan Wiig from the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. The speakers discussed the importance of community for their agriculture endeavors. “It’s a symbiotic relationship between the farmer and the eater; local farms are local businesses,” explained Tess. Evan shared that CSAs give urban dwellers and non-farmers a chance to feel connected to the land. “If there is a drought, you will feel and see the impact of that drought with your CSA; it brings you more in tune to what’s happening in food sheds and builds that bridge between urban and rural,” discussed Evan. Supporting CSAs also gives farmers some financial stability, which is especially important in current climates.
CSAs and small farms are also good for the environment. “Diversity is foundational to any healthy living system,” explained Evan. He emphasized the importance of promoting polices that support CSAs and small farms, calling on all of us to contact our local representatives to enact these policies.
“Food affects everyone. Being part of a CSA is also being part of agriculture, and therefore, your food system. This helps promote a better and more diverse food system,” stated Evan.
Interested in joining your local CSA but don’t know where to start? Check out the Fair Share CSA Coalition Farm Search for information.
As far as CSA’s connecting people to the land and region, I’m put in mind of a particular point made by Masonobu Fukuoka in his epic ‘Natural Way of Farming’. It is that produce tastes best when ripe- which is a very simple way of saying that the particular combination of sun, earth, rainfall, and etc. which brings a plant to it’s maximal situation is the same situation we also are living in, which we forget by distraction from our own place in the natural environment we live in along with those plants. By this logic, a ripe August melon brings us into communion with our true nature, as a part *within* the natural world, rather than something standing outside of it.
The question of ‘scale’ and its relationship to reaching consumers was made by the California grower, and this is a double edged sword. Are NY consumers well served by purchasing California grown ‘organic’ foods produced along what are essentially large scale industrial methods? Should we choose and promote a strictly regional scale, knowing that consumers may then be presented with less choice regarding price and variety?
In confronting this, we are forced to make ‘political’ decisions whose requirement is predicated by the conflict between economics and sensibility, and we are doing so in a nation with little history of choosing the latter over the former.
If we choose to promote on the basis of ‘sense’- taste, freshness, seasonality, and local connection- we must be fully aware of what we may *not* be able to do simultaneously. If we want to find an economic justification, we may have to both think creatively and promote that ideation- the ‘local farm tax base supports our schools’ approach, for instance- much louder and more forcefully than those engaged in production agriculture generally have the time or inclination to do so themselves.