Our classic book Farms of Tomorrow Revisited continues to support the development of healthy farm & food community linkages.
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Friday evening at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe we heard Pulitzer Prize winning author Elizabeth Kolbert speak about her book, The Sixth Extinction. As expected, the realities she presented were super sobering. She named the five previous extinctions that have occurred on Earth, and their causes. Then she talked at length about the extinction currently well underway, an unprecedented biological annihilation that we human beings are wreaking upon our home planet. “This time,” Kolbert said, “we are the asteroids.”
I’ve written this message often before, and I shall write it again. Community Farms (CSAs) are a sober and intelligent response to accelerating political and climate turbulence. Economic turbulence may follow. Time to act.
Regarding our overall situation as urgent, I’ve reported extensively about the ominously active factors bearing upon us all & the potentials of positive community action in collaboration with local farms. I’ve also recorded a ½-hour narrated slide show on these issues for Youtube (Awakening Community Intelligence) freely available to all for personal or community education.
Now at the start of February, we are just a few weeks away from national CSA Signup Day, Friday, February 24. It is a golden opportunity for existing CSA farms to expand the community that supports what they are doing: clean land, clean food, enhanced local food security.
CSA Signup Day is also a golden opportunity for communities – neighborhoods, workplaces, churches and temples, suburbs, and so forth – to get busy building community farms right now, by the hundreds of thousands. It takes time to get a community farm together, but they can make a big stabilizing difference.
In conjunction with CSA Signup Day, February 24 will be marked by the launch of a CSA Charter, which will set out the principles and practices that guide CSA farms in the USA and Canada. In my view, that’s a big step forward for evolving the community farm web in North America, in a time when big steps are immediately needed.
My intention with the half-hour Youtube offering below is to present CSA farms to the public in the context of the severe turbulence now afoot in politics, economics, social structure, and climate change. I regard CSA farms as intelligent and strategic responses to all these hard realities.
My hope is that the slide show lecture, which is freely available, will be used to help strengthen community food initiatives around the Americas, and especially help to engage many more new people. We are going to need many more strong, vibrant local food systems, and we need them now.
My essay on this word play and its significance for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is now posted at Mother Earth News.
For dozens of reasons, it’s time to convene in America’s heartland a conference of farmers involved in Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Thanks to the artful community collaboration of 15 farm organizations* – anchored by the Wisconsin Farmers Union – just such a gathering will happen December 3-4, 2015, in Eau Claire, Wisconsin: The Midwest CSA Conference: Moving Forward Together…
…CSA is a unique model and thus deserves it’s own special gathering every couple of years to refresh the vision. Are CSA farms just a passing agrarian fantasy, or can they serve as enduring cornerstones for community and ecosystem renewal in our region and beyond? CSA is continuing to evolve as a resilient model in an era of rapid change…
At the conference I will have an opportunity to give a keynote talk: Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones.
The rest of the story about the CSA conference is here in my blog for Mother Earth News.
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finished writing a new book, and that it’s coming soon. All the details will be announced on this blog.
Over the last decades many thousands of people in all parts of the world have come to recognize in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) a vehicle for approaching land, food, labor, environment and community in a healthier way. Now – in an era with increasing shadows of environmental catastrophe – it’s time to expand exponentially the CSA vision and reality.
The opportunity is before us to establish hundreds of thousands of CSA farms in nations around the world, and to thereby employ a proven, egalitarian model to address the radically changing circumstances in our environment, climate, economics, and social relationships. This book lays out the vision eloquently.
As a journalist I’ve been writing about CSA since its inception in the USA in the late 1970s. This new book is a visionary call to action.
Agrarians often remark in one context or another that they feel farming went off course when people started trying to run farms as a business instead of as a way of life. At that point they say farming was no longer a culture of the land, but rather a business of the land — a business that has metastasized over decades to become the modern, chemically-fueled behemoth of industrial agribusiness.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has been planted and cultivated in the context of the increasing dominance of industrial agriculture and the ongoing decline of the traditional family farm. Over the last 28 years many thousands of people have recognized in CSA a vehicle for approaching food, land, environment and community in a different way. But there is a creeping risk that CSA could be diverted down a course more devotedly focused on monetary profit and business efficiency in service to profit. In so doing the movement risks losing its bearings on the matters of agricultural, social and environmental renewal that were intrinsic to the original concept.
Increasingly over the last decade, as more and more businesses have seen a marketing opportunity and begun to describe themselves as CSAs, extension services and educators have also advanced the idea of CSA as a “marketing approach” or “marketing tool.” Yet an emphasis on marketing is in many respects the antithesis of what CSA started out to become, and what it still has the potential to become. CSA was not initiated as a way to sell food. It was about communities of people directly supporting specific farms, and in reciprocity farms directly supporting specific people in specific communities.
Many agricultural initiatives claiming the status of CSA do in fact approach it as simply a marketing strategy — just another way for a farm to sell vegetables and to earn money. Such initiatives fill a true need, no doubt. But they veer from the core ideas of CSA, ideas which are eminently worthy of recollection. In my view, the agricultural, environmental, social and health ideals are still very much worth striving for.
When a “CSA” puts its central focus on profit, by that very act it modifies or mutates the spirit of the movement and fundamentally becomes something else – ‘Genetically Modified CSA,’ you might say. That something else may be a fabulous business idea that is doing an effective job of fulfilling a real need for consumers. That’s admirable. But the business is not a CSA, and the use of CSA as a descriptor for such businesses undermines the efforts of true community supported farms.
Profit-centered enterprises have over time eroded the integrity of the term “natural” so that it has little relevant meaning in the marketplace. No one trusts the label “natural” anymore because it can mean anything the labeler wants it to mean. Likewise, the meaning of words like “green” and “sustainable” has mutated over the decades. Those terms have been deliberately compromised to cover an ever-widening range of ideas and tools, and in some cases the terms have been distorted to describe extreme industrial technological “solutions” for environmental problems, such as adding chemicals to the ocean to control pollution, or salting the atmosphere with microscopic metal particles in an attempt to prevent global climate change
Similarly, the term ‘CSA” may have its definition eroded. As Angelic Organics CSA farmer John Peterson told me last year, “A farm is not just an economic unit to produce food. It’s also a living social, environmental and educational organism…
“A CSA cannot be thought of as just a unit of economic production. That just commodifies the farms and farmers, as food is commodified also…You can’t have farmers beat into the ground working for prices set by wholesalers, trying to make mortgage and equipment payments and all the rest. You cannot have the stewards of the land struggling under that much pressure.”
As I hear it, the call of the land in regard to CSA farms has far more to do with communities of people coming together in creative, positive response to the agricultural, environmental, climatological, social and health challenges of our era than it does with retailing.
– by Steven McFadden
A thoughtful Grange chapter plans to honor three farmers who helped pioneer the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement in the USA. The event is set for Sunday, November 23 at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, and it’s sponsored by the Peterborough Grange #35 in New Hampshire.
CSA has multiplied from just two USA farms in the late 1980s to as many as 10,000 CSA farms now according to some estimates, with many thousands of other CSAs in nations all across the globe.
In the early era of CSA, in parallel with efforts at Indian Line Farm in Western Massachusetts, the three New Hampshire farmers — Trauger Groh, Lincoln Geiger and Anthony Graham — initiated the Temple Wilton Community Farm.
Their innovative CSA is still active and prosperous, and it continues to serve as a forward-looking model for successful community farms around the world– not simply because of the high quality of food they provide for member-owners of the farm, but also because of the profoundly sane environmental, educational, economic, social, and cultural benefits that have been developed as part of the model.
In 1985-86 when the Temple-Wilton CSA was initiated, I was the farm and garden columnist for The Monadnock Ledger. The pioneering efforts of the local farmers naturally drew my interest. Eventually, with Trauger Groh, I co-authored Farms of Tomorrow (1990), and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited (2007) to explore in print what CSA held as potential. Later I authored a two-part history of CSA for Rodale’s New Farm magazine. I’m honored to have been invited to give a short keynote talk – by remote video — at the Grange-CSA event in New Hampshire, and to have an opportunity to try and place the creative efforts of these farmers in context.
This keynote honoring event will continue a developing association between The Grange, which has deep historic roots in North America, and the emerging model of CSA community farms.
Organizer Ron Lucas of Peterborough Grange #35 plans to video record the ceremony, and to produce a 15-minute segment that will be posted on public access sites such as Youtube and Vimeo. More on that later as details become available…
For further information contact Ron Lucas of the Peterborough Grange < firstname.lastname@example.org >