Friday, March 16, 2007

Community Supported Agriculture

One of the most direct ways to connect to a grower is to become a member of the farm. I am not talking figuratively here. Community supported agriculture (CSA) farms depend on their subscribers to function. In ecological terms, it is a mutualist or symbiotic relationship between you and the grower. A subscriber commits himself/herself to pay up front for produce still on the stem, sight unseen. The farmer now has a guaranteed market without having to travel to several locations to peddle the product. It also provides growers with operating capital to maintain operations and sow the next crop. This passes-on some of the risk of farming to you but reduces some of the farmer’s uncertainty (not that you’ve been asking for a little risk with your organic produce, but it is part of the “cost” of going sustainable). In return, subscribers get a cornucopian delivery, as often as once a week. It is a very convenient way for busy urban dwellers to get healthy produce. And the thought that you are integral to the operations of sustainably run farm makes you food taste that much more delightful (try thinking of this as you take the first bight of the next CSA-grown vegetable you eat and you’ll understand).

I would be remiss if I were not to mention what some consider the down sides of CSA’s -- although there are easy solutions to many of these hitches. If you live alone, it is often a challenge to go through your produce before it goes south. However, many CSA’s have biweekly deliveries and you can always find a few friends with whom to share the cost and the produce. Also, organically grown food makes a wonderful gift (you will never have to worry that you did not have time to go out and get that anniversary gift again). And of course, there is always the fading art of canning.

The other major critique that some subscribers I know have had is that the content is somewhat unpredictable in both variety and quantity. To those who may share this peeve the only thing I can think of saying about it is, welcome to the real world of growing food. The industrial/food complex buffers you from this boom/bust cycle by sheer volume, importation, pesticides, mechanization, and lots of petrochemicals. But let me remind you that you are reading this blog because you want to get out of that unhealthy loop. Let’s just live with it. I, for one, think it is a good trade off.

Here are some links to some other resources, including a more extensive introduction to CSA’s and a nationwide CSA locator (if you have family outside the Bay Area, please pass on the link to the CSA locator). I also include web links to some nearby CSA’s.

Resources: Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association’s introduction to CSA’s Local Harvest nationwide CSA locator Explanation of what is Community Supported Agriculture

Local CSA’s Terra Firma Farms, Winter California Eatwell Farm, Dixon, California Good Humus CSA Mariquita Farms

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