LocalHarvest Newsletter, January 29, 2016|
photo by Wobbly Cart Farm
Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.
Local Harvest January 2016: "Relational Agriculture"
One method that smaller scale farmers have used for a few decades to not only solidify their customer base but to also build community and obtain operating capital is through Community Supported Agriculture arrangements. Think about those words for a moment.....
Community, meaning "a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals". It also means "a group of interdependent organisms of different species growing or living together in a specified habitat". Community is cultivated by fellowship with the people who produce our food and the other eaters in that CSA. They have common interests in eating fresh and healthy, in supporting local and ethical forms of agriculture, in diverting their dollars directly to the producers of the food.
As CSA participants, we are interdependent humans living in a certain region, depending on one another for part of our food, health, and livelihoods. Supported is simple: "to provide for or maintain by supplying with money or necessities". CSAs support both the farmer and the eater. It goes much deeper than a purely monetary transaction. The CSA farmer knows who their customers are, what they like, and how much to grow for them. They also have up-front operating capital so that they have the money to grow the food. They don't have to go to a bank or rely on high interest credit cards. The interest they pay to the CSA customer is good value, incredible freshness and variety, and other values such as exclusive offers, u-pick crops, farm events, experiential education, and more.
And then we have Agriculture: "agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi, and other life forms for food, fiber, biofuel, medicinal, and other products used to sustain and enhance human life". Notice the emphasis on sustaining and enhancing human life. This may be a distinction from some food firms who privilege enhancing profits, building market share, eliminating competition as their main goals. This brings me to the thesis of my article- Community Supported Agriculture is an essential component of a thriving, diversified localized food system and we must continue to support it. As the late Thomas Lyson, professor of rural sociology at Cornell University said, because of the interlocked relationship between the food economy and consumers, people have a civic duty to support important agricultural engagements [such as CSA].
There are many box schemes and food subscription services popping up right and left (see my Food & Tech Disconnect article for some examples) that are not the same thing as farmer owned/operated CSAs and don't provide the same benefits for farmers nor eaters. This is not to say that some aggregated models that assemble foods from multiple farmers, ranchers, and food artisans are bad, indeed they offer an outlet for lots of producers that could be critical for their success. If the service sources locally, pays farmers fair prices, and is clear about their values, then I can get behind those businesses. Just keep in mind the importance and value of a real CSA that is owned and operated by a farmer or group of farmers.
If you want to go further in your relationship and deepen your values of interdependence with your local farmer(s), then consider signing up for a CSA. And do it soon. Most CSAs have their sign-up period in winter and begin providing food sometime in late spring or summer. If you are hesitant about making that big of a commitment, many CSAs now offer smaller shares or trial periods so you can test out their food without taking that big of a financial plunge. If money is a consideration, an increasing number of CSAs are taking EBT or offer other ways to reduce the cost for lower-income people, such as work shares or sliding scale pricing.
With all this CSA boosterism said, I have to admit I am not a member of any CSA because we are able to grow and raise most of our own food. For other items we don't grow, I try to buy as direct as possible because I want farmers to succeed and earn a good wage for all their efforts.
From the LH Store
Sometimes a forgotten realm of agriculture, herbs are an important part of many people’s lives. Just today I took some elderberry elixir to arm myself against the cold going around my house, rubbed some rich comfrey salve onto my callused hands, and drank a lovely peppermint herbal tea. There are so many ways that herbs enrich our lives, including adding unique flavors to our foods and bolstering our health. Check out the LH store for a wide variety of herbal products!
Less paperwork, more lettuce!! Local Harvest will release a simpler version of its powerful CSAware for the 2016 season. More details to come, but plan on features suitable for smaller CSA operations. No need for a website or credit card processing accounts, this simpler version will be hosted in your LocalHarvest listing for a minimal monthly fee.
Recipe: Veggie Rice Master Recipe
Sharpen your knife! Turn the music up! Pour yourself a glass! Dig into the deep, deep crevices of your fridge for all of those sad, forgotten (but preferably not rotten) veggies, and prepare to make something infinitely delicious and nutritious. Trust me, it’ll be a new favorite and well worth the effort.