Everyone that I talk to thinks that more locally grown foods are a wonderful thing. Most people that I know want a local farm that will provide fresh, healthy, sustainable produce. But very few people realize all that goes into making that possible.
Growing sustainable foods is a lot of work. To keep the bugs and the weeds at bay requires constant vigilance. It’s not a 9-to-5 kind of job. It is hot; it is hard; and it is intense.
When growing food organically, there are good years and bad years. Every farm and every year is different. Rain, lack of rain, disease, pests, frost, and intense heat make every year a gamble. Part of a CSA is sharing in the risk and the reward of the farm. It’s no secret that last year was a particularly challenging year on many fronts. Many of you understood, and have continued to stand with us.
In our effort to pay off the farm--Just nine years to go!--Victory Acres has run at deficit for the past two years. We have cut costs everywhere that we can while trying to maintain the quality for our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members, but too often there’s just not enough to go around. Our budget every year is based on our CSA membership for that year. Our current membership is half of what it was last year, and we are looking at some other options right now besides the CSA to fund the overall farm operation.
Honestly, we do not want to go anywhere else. We like working directly with our CSA members, and we want to develop a sense of loyalty to the farm that will survive the less-than-ideal seasons like we had last year. We want our members to be thrilled with our weekly share amounts! We want them to be excited as they see each new piece of the farm blossom and take root! We want all our members—from the youngest to the oldest--to see Victory Acres as their farm.
But there are reasons that CSA’s do not work out for members and for farmers. Our produce could command a healthy profit at a few select farmers markets and upscale restaurants, and our members could find what they want to buy at another venue. We know that there are times when you could buy more produce at Walmart for less than the cost of your CSA membership. But if the CSA goes away, what is lost? What is lost is community. The chance to connect with your food, your farmer, and the process that sustains our life and health cannot be reduced to a dollar amount. The employment of local people and local land to produce local food and build community cannot be purchased in a store.
Sharing in the risk and reward of the farm can be risky for all of us. You don’t know what kind of season it’s going to be and neither do we. When you look at the price of the share and consider paying all of it at once it may not seem like a very good deal. But when you consider all that you get throughout the season, it really is a good deal. Many years, members find that vegetables cost less than $1 per pound. But even in years like last year when our yields were down considerably, we were still under the national organic average retail cost. We know that times are tough, and many people are cutting back for economic reasons. If you want to participate but don’t feel like you can afford it, we can work it out. We want you to be a part of the farm.
So is the CSA worth it? Every time I see the smiles on the faces of children piling out of the van to pick up their share from their farm for another week and another season, I believe again that all those long hot hours in the fields are worth it. Every time this summer that you bite into another slice of deep-red, vine-ripened, farm-fresh, Victory Acres tomatoes, I hope you’ll think it’s worth it too.
Community Supported Agriculture cannot survive without community support. We need you and members like you to make the farm successful, and we are working our hardest to make sure we deliver a great crop for the 2012 growing season. In addition to the many ways you have already encouraged and supported us, here are a few things that you could do to help:
· Sign up! If you haven’t signed up yet, give it a try or let us know why. We value your membership, and we take what you have to say very seriously.
· Tell your friends. If you enjoy and appreciate our CSA, chances are, they will too.
· Join us in our work. The field work never ends. There is always more work to do than what we have time or manpower to accomplish. While work from members is not required, it is appreciated. We welcome your help – for an hour or for a day.
· Appreciate your farmer. A lot goes into making the produce you enjoy possible. Most people don’t know it, but Farmer Terry is actually a full-time volunteer. To help the farm, my parents are investing their lives--because they believe in this work and want to see it continue. While paying off the farm, Victory Acres cannot currently afford to pay a full-time farmer. While Farmer Terry doesn’t get a paycheck, a little appreciation from our members can go a long way.
· Volunteer your skills. In our CSA membership, we know that there are a variety of talents. Making your expertise available would be a great way to help the farm.
This year is going to be a great season, and we would love
for you to join us at Victory Acres