Life and thoughts from a small-scale organic farm . . . and its farmers

This is a blog that explores ideas around the growing of food and community at Glen Valley Organic Farm.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Guest Post: CSA Member Perspective

Below is a guest blog post from Karen, one of our CSA members. When we began planning our Community Supported Agriculture program three years ago, Karen approached us at a farmers market and said "I hear you're starting a CSA." We responded that we were. "Yeah, I've already signed up," she stated. We were working (and continue to work) with the NOW BC Co-op to plan the delivery our CSA boxes. As a NOW BC member, Karen had already caught wind of what was coming down the pipe. She signed up before we even had a chance to reconsider doing the CSA!

I asked Karen to share her thoughts on why she joined our CSA and why she likes the CSA concept. Here is what she said:

I love my CSA, and the overall concept of community support agriculture. The idea that I can come between the banking system and a small family farmer appeals to me immensely, if only because the year-on-year unpredictability of a vocation like farming has caused a ruinous financial cycle for so many.

Let me be frank. I am never going to take up farming; I can barely seed my own garden on a regular basis. But as a consumer of food I believe it is up to me to put my money toward supporting growers who are making choices I can live with.

CSAs are a simple and direct way to source fresh local produce for my family. In short, I pay an agreed upon sum upfront in the spring for a summer/fall harvest, and receive a bin of fresh produce weekly -- whatever the farmers have grown that season. With the Glen Valley Organic Farm CSA, Chris is extremely communicative -- I blame it on his advanced Communications degrees -- and consultative about what he and Jeremy plan each year. I rarely give much in the way of suggestions or advice, though, because I love cooking whatever comes my way, and enjoying the challenges that some of the less common ingredients bring into my kitchen.

It is critical to me to feed my family affordable foods that have been taken from the earth with much care. I want the foods to be as chemical free as possible. I want the land to be fruitful for myself, my family and my community for generations to come. I want the people who plant, grow and harvest my foods to earn a living wage. These are my core values.

Do I have irrefutable proof that we must be careful stewards of the land? Actually, I don't. But it makes logical sense to me and even without scientific studies to quote I can say I have read enough to know that issues exist with careless or greedy farming. There always have been.

I truly like the idea of keeping the farmers away from the banks. When I pay upfront for a season of produce, I commit to supporting the farmers regardless of the crop yields. On average, the price of my CSA does not save me money when compared to what I would pay for it at the Farmer's Market. It is about the same. I can't lie. If the farm has a bumper year, I would expect to enjoy a bit more of the produce than during a regular year. But in the same spirit, I would gladly take a hit with my farmers if crops failed.

We are now entering into our third year with Glen Valley, and I can tell you that if my farmers need our support, financial or otherwise, I will do what I can to ensure they can continue to farm without incurring endless and compounding debts, year on year. That's how important I believe this connection is to my family, and that is how much I believe in the integrity of the farmers I have chosen.

I am deeply concerned about how much of our Canadian agricultural land is being swallowed up by urban development, and how much of the remaining is being purchased by other countries and national and multinational "farming" corporations. In the future, could Canada's farmland be turned into fiefdoms, if they haven't already? Will people work land owned by huge and extremely wealthy corporations rather than themselves? If they do, will they plant what they are told, fertilise and chemicalize to maximise profits and minimize inconvenience? If the serfs (I mean paid farmers) are lucky, they will have benevolent masters who listen to their expertise, and pay them a living wage. If not? ...

Of course, I don't know what these trends mean to us as citizens of Canada, and to our food system. So what keeps me working and agitating toward collective food security? I do not want to learn that our lands are irreversibly damaged, and our wildlife poisoned, because we allowed it to happen through careless consumer choices and a lack of political will.

I am aware that to some Canadians with different philosophies, this stand makes me look over-reactive. But that's okay. After all, I would rather to look foolish now, rather than be poor and hungry in the future. This is a cycle I believe we can avoid.

My kids love to see the blog, to visit the farm children and those of other CSA members. They are fascinated by the chickens and goats, and thrilled to pick berries and run in the fields. And of course, we all love to eat the fresh foods you put on our table. The connection, the conversation, the opportunity to be involved, makes eating the foods that arrive each week nutritious not only to our bodies, but to our hearts and souls as well.

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