SPRING 1999 - ISSUE NUMBER 47
A Tri-State Guide to Community Supported Agriculture Is Now Available
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a term that is growing more familiar throughout Michigan and the Midwest. But, just what does it mean, where is CSA happening, and what are the reasons for it? Such things are not as well known.
The Many Faces of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a recently published guide to the CSAs of Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, provides many of the answers. The 110 page guide is the first of a series of collaborative efforts among the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance (MOFFA), the Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association (OEFFA), and Sustainable Earth, Inc. of Indiana. The guide goes on sale this week ($10.00 s/h included). Many Faces is a lively and verbally picturesque introduction to the CSA projects that currently exist in all three states. A total of 35 CSA farms are profiled, each uniquely crafted to the needs of their members and their place. These profiles, together with orienting essays and a selected bibliography, give the reader (whether urban eater or agricultural professional) a working sense of the organization, operation and philosophical underpinnings that together define these alternative food and farming enterprises.
Many Faces presents CSA as a model for local food production, distribution and consumption. Through direct, face-to-face interaction, farmers agree to raise seasonal, chemical-free food for area eaters; area eaters, in turn, support (with dollars and labor) the efforts of small diversified farmers. There is a sharing of risk and responsibility as well as the rewards of an abundant harvest. There is a renewed connection to the land, to natural processes, and to the integrity of real places. CSA provides a way to revalue agriculture and community &emdash; returning farming to the local economy and building community through collective effort and a sense of greater self-reliance.
Despite these general characteristics, Many Faces makes it is clear that no two CSAs are alike. Each has a distinct personality. CSAs differ in size, in produce offered, in member involvement. Some attach to sponsoring institutions, some conduct on-farm research, some teach children, others work to educate the public about the earth, food security, and sustainable consumption.
Still, for all their energy and creative promise, CSAs face many challenges. It is difficult to get busy people to give up the convenience of 'fast food' and come out to the farm to work or even to pick up shares. Likewise, the lure of farm fresh vegetables and seasonal eating pales before the 'corporate cornucopia' offered 24 hours/ day, 365 days/ year in suburban supermarkets. When food is experienced only as a commodity, it is difficult to construct and value deeper biological and social connections or to provide the CSA farmer with a living wage. These challenges as well as strategies to overcome them are but a few of the issues discussed in the guide.
Many Faces is part of a larger CSA project, "Improving the Environment for Community Supported Agriculture in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana," funded by the NC- Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. In addition to the guide, MOFFA, OEFFA and Sustainable Earth, Inc have developed a colorful, traveling slide presentation on community supported agriculture. For further information about either the guide or the slide show contact:
Laura B. DeLind, project coordinator
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