Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Local Meets Seasonal

“Knowing where our food comes from helps us eat from as close to home as possible; choose exceptional freshness and flavor; support our local community/economy; increase revenues for farmers so that they, and future generations, continue producing food; and be more connected to seasonality, place, and varieties of foods that are grown in our region.”

–Temra Costa, author of “Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat”

Happy First Day of Summer!

Here at Stonewall Farm, we have a unique supply and demand situation this season. While we like many smaller-scale farms lose small amounts of our vegetables and other produce to myriad causes (e.g. animal eating, overly dry soils, overly wet soils), we have a relative abundance of beets, chard, dill, garlic chives, and later on in the season, sweet corn, tomatoes, and more fresh goodness. Even with two undaunted families of groundhogs and deer populations on the property, we count ourselves grateful to produce over 50 kinds of vegetables each year(!)

Consequently, we also have more than enough produce to sell throughout Keene and nearby towns, but then comes the question of, “Who will want loads of Bright Lights chard for meal after meal of salads and stir fries?”

This week, working alongside our Garden Manager, Austin, we launched a campaign to reach out to houses of worship and other larger community institutions to highlight just how much fresh farm offerings we still have. You might be asking yourself, “So, beyond that  10′ x 15′ Farm Store,” how do you sell hundreds upon hundreds of pounds of produce each season?!” This is where a somewhat curious sounding acronym enters the picture. This acronym and what it stands for, though, performs outreach for our Farm emphasizing how we teach people about food, one season at a time. In particular, just how being local and seasonal continues to define economically supportive and nutritious food, especially in an age of multinational food corporations trying to work beyond the natural bounds of locality and seasonality.

This acronym is CSA: Community-Supported Agriculture.

CSA’s, as locally rooted as they have become in New Hampshire, New England, and the rest of the United States, actually have international origins. According to most food history scholars, what we now know as CSA’s started in Japan in the mid-1960’s by an altogether different name: Teikei. Translated from Japanese, “Teikei” can mean “cooperation” or “link-up.” Cooperation and linking up took shape in 1960’s Japan when a group of Japanese women in southern Japan came together to purchase fresher milk beyond the conventionally made and imported dairies then arriving to the island nation. “Teikei” eventually became immersed in a cultural mainstream so that by 1971, the Japan Organic Agriculture Association offered a means for:

 “producer(s) and consumer(s) to have talks and contact to deepen their mutual understanding: both of them provide labor and capital to support their own delivery system.”

Individual subscribers pay to a farm one amount per season for a guarantee of a weekly/biweekly box or “share” of foodstuffs from the farm throughout a given season. No intermediaries, no retailers; just the farmer (producer) and the subscriber (consumer). Such an alternative distribution and economic model eventually spread to Europe and by the 1980’s, the United States. As of 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agriculture Systems division estimates there are upwards of 6,500 registered CSA’s nationally. “Teikei” became renamed for English-speaking consumers and producers as “Community-Supported Agriculture.” Still, the implicit connection to “cooperation” remains, even after thousands of miles of travel and almost fifty years of history. There have also evolved four types of CSA’s:

  •     Farmer-managed: A farmer creates and maintains a CSA, recruits subscribers, and controls operations;
  •     Shareholder/subscriber-managed: Local residents create a CSA, hire a farmer to grow desired crops, and collectively manage the CSA;
  •     Farmer cooperative: Multiple farmers come together to create and manage a CSA, and;
  •     Farmer-shareholder cooperative: Farmers and local residents create and collectively manage a CSA.

Stonewall Farm’s CSA  goes back to the founding of our non-profit organization in 1994, starting as a farmer-managed CSA operation. Yet, throughout our almost 20-year history to date, we collect and review shareholder feedback on preferences for crops to plant in upcoming growing seasons. After an especially steady strawberry harvest earlier in June, our Garden Team of Austin Mandryk and Mali Jay are looking forward to seeing how warm-season crops take shape through September and in some cases, even October.

To paraphrase what Temra Costa wrote in her groundbeaking yet refreshing book on female farmers, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat, there are not only so many benefits to knowing where our food comes from, but also many outlets in getting to know our food. CSA’s might not replace supermarkets or other traditional means of producing, distributing, and selling foodstuffs, but they provide yet another means alongside farmers’ markets, growing clubs, and farm education to teach us about food. Only when we become knowledgeable about our relationship(s) with food can we then become less opinionated and more informed on prioritizing food’s nourishment in our daily individual and community lives. We can find that balance between protecting environmental integrity and economic equity of our “farmscapes,” so that we can keep local and regional farms healthy with enough bottom line in soil, water, and monetary resources.

So, a question I pose to you now is, “Why not support your local CSA?” If you are interested to support our local CSA, feel free to check in with our Garden Manager Austin Mandryk at amandryk@stonewallfarm.org. You can also click the link to our CSA registration form, read up on our “Farm Notes” collection, and more at our CSA page.

Much thanks to the Japan Organic Agriculture Association, Steven McFadden and his blog series, “The Call of the Land,” Temra Costa and her book, Farmer Jane, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Community Development, and especially to our Stonewall Farm CSA & Garden Team, Austin & Mali, and all of our current and future CSA subscribers. You all help make Stonewall Farm, Stonewall Strong.

Stonewall Farm CSA In Action

Stonewall Farm CSA In Action

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