What is a CSA? When your friends or neighbors, your visiting parents or grown children ask where it is that you go each week, what it is that you are doing, how it is that you return with a bag full of fresh vegetables without setting foot in a store, what is your answer? Do you relegate it to the simple form of outward appearances a trade of up-front money that gets you so many vegetables each week? Or do you enter in depth to the ways in which a CSA carries the potential to alter the market, re-configure the economy, and birth new, virtuous, and loving forms of community?
When approaching those unfamiliar with Community Supported Agriculture, the simple, practical description of a CSA’s weekly vegetable shares can be a helpful starting point. In exchange for providing our farm with funding early in the spring in the form of membership fees, we (your farmers) deliver a variety of vegetables to your neighborhood each week for 22 weeks, from early June to the beginning of November.
In further conversation, and in furthering your own understanding of just what you’ve gotten yourselves in to, you may find the following to be quite thought-provoking.
Community Supported Agriculture is a concept describing a Community Based Organization including Producers (Farmers) and Consumers (that would be You, Current and Future Members). The Consumers agree to provide up front support early in the season to help the farm secure funds for the upcoming season when many of the larger annual purchases are taking place. The Farm provides, to the best of their abilities, a selection of high quality vegetables throughout the growing season as well as a space for the community to come together around shared values and beautiful food. The interaction and cooperation inherent in a CSA’s arrangement create certain possibilities:
For Farmers to know the needs of the Community before working the land or planning the garden.
For the Consumers to have the opportunity to express their food and financial needs and preferences.
For the Commitment to be consciously and openly established between Farmers and Consumers.
For the Farmers’ needs to be recognized and fulfilled, thereby freeing the Farmers to serve the Community.
As you can see, this simple arrangement allows great benefits for the Farmers and the Consumers, as well as the Community at large.
The Consumers receive Fresh, High Quality vegetables with a direct link to the soil they were grown in. They have the opportunity to walk the land, meet with the farmers, experience the rhythms of Farm Life, and watch their farm and community progress and thrive. They have the opportunity to converse with the Farmers, to know them better, and to provide regular feedback, impressions, frustrations, suggestions, and joys of being a part of their CSA. In coming to the Vegetable Pick-ups regularly, they may meet and know better their neighbors, both their needs and how they each are a vital part of the Community.
The Farmers are allowed to put their entirety into caring for the farm and producing the vegetables during the growing season, as they have done their marketing, budgeting, and planning during the winter and have sufficient support established. They have the pleasure of being in direct relationship with the Consumers, to know and serve their needs and share the abundance (and difficulties) of this growing life. The risks of farming (drought/flooding/crop failure) are shared with the Consumers, taking some of the burden from the Farmer.
The Community has kept a piece of land a working, living farm and has formed a place to meet each other, converse, and grow together. Some may be going through difficult situations in life, and the Community can recognize their needs and help support them, directly through the CSA with a subsidized share, or through other means.
Being a CSA that travels, we grieve the distance between the majoriy of our members and the land on which we grow. An hour to Poughkeepsie, two and a half hours to Brooklyn, sometimes even the 10 minute drive between Hudson and our farm can be too great a barrier to farm visits, to nurturing that direct connection between the soil that supports our crops and you, the members who share in the harvest. How can we lessen that distance? How can we enhance that connection, while cultivating other, strong and nourishing and near-by connections between you and your fellow members?
Within the limits of our land’s slowly growing fertility, the acreage we have to grow on, the hours of daylight, and our own skills, we will do our best to meet your needs, as you have committed to helping us meet ours.
Jen and Jon