CSA Farms as a Sober Response to Political & Climate Chaos

I’ve written this message often before, and I shall write it again. Community Farms (CSAs) are a sober and intelligent response to accelerating political and climate turbulence. Economic turbulence may follow. Time to act.

Regarding our overall situation as urgent, I’ve reported extensively about the ominously active factors bearing upon us all & the potentials of positive community action in collaboration with local farms. I’ve also recorded a ½-hour narrated slide show on these issues for Youtube (Awakening Community Intelligence) freely available to all for personal or community education.


Early every year in both the USA and Canada,  CSA Signup Day creates an opportunity for existing CSA farms to expand the community in support of what they are doing: clean land, clean food, enhanced local food security.

CSA signup day is also an opportunity for communities – neighborhoods, workplaces, churches and temples, suburbs, and so forth – to get busy establishing community farms, by the hundreds of thousands. It takes time to get a community farm together, but they can make a big stabilizing difference.

In conjunction with CSA signup day, as of 2017 there is a CSA Charter, which sets out the principles and practices that guide CSA farms in the USA and Canada. That’s a big step forward for evolving the community farm web in North America, in a time when big steps are immediately needed.

My most recent book about the CSA movement is Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones.

Farms of Tomorrow published in Mandarin Chinese Translation

Farms of Tomorrow, the book about community supported agriculture that the late Trauger Groh and I co-authored 27 years ago, has now been translated into Mandarin, the dialect used by 70% of the 1.2 billion human beings who speak Chinese.

When Trauger and I collaborated on the original English-language edition of Farms of Tomorrow in 1989-90 there were perhaps 60 community supported farms (CSAs) in the USA. Now according to the USDA’s 2015 Local Food Census, the number of CSAs is nearly 7,500. There are many thousands more sustainable, organic and biodynamic CSA farms around the world involving hundreds of thousands of households in direct healthy agroecology and food sovereignty. Many of these far-flung community farms are networked through URGENCI, an international NGO based in France.

In the face of the world’s general agricultural, environmental, political and climate turbulence, the steady international, grass-roots development of a sustainable, holistic farm and community model is positive and heartening. These are points I emphasize in a narrated slide show (Awakening Community Intelligence) freely available on Youtube. In it I also sound a call, and offer an urgent argument for why, communities engage now actively to begin establishing hundreds of thousands of new CSA farms.

Eight years after the initial US publication of our book, Trauger and I again examined the ideas, the farms, and the communities at the heart of the growing CSA movement, and we co-authored a revised and greatly expanded edition: Farms of Tomorrow Revisited. This is the volume now translated into Mandarin

Our book acknowledges that farming is not just a business like any other profit-making business, but a precondition of all human life on earth, and a precondition of all economic activity. As such, farming can be understood as everyone’s responsibility.

The book contains basic essays on principles, structures and ideals for community supported farms. We wrote on pertinent themes: the economic, environmental, spiritual and legal questions faced by CSAs; the development of community; relationship with the land; the role of animals; and the experiences and observations of farm-member families.

As we note in the book, Community Supported Agriculture is not just another new and clever approach to marketing. Rather, CSA is about the necessary renewal of agriculture through its healthy linkage with the human communities that depend on farming for survival. CSA is also about the necessary stewardship of soil, plants, and animals: the essential capital of all human cultures. Our relationship with nature and the ways that we use the land will determine the future of the earth.

By now, more than 30 years after beginning in Japan, Europe, the USA and elsewhere, CSA farms are in every part of the world. Farms of Tomorrow Revisited has been translated into German, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and now the new Mandarin edition. The new translation of our book will join Elizabeth Henderson’s influential CSA book, Sharing the Harvest, which has already been published in Chinese.

The Chinese edition of Farms of Tomorrow Revisited has been translated and is published by the Anthroposophy Education Foundation in Taiwan in agreement with the original and current US publisher, the Biodynamic Association. The Chinese edition is being promoted through Facebook.





Community Circle Develops Dynamic Vision for CSA Farms

vvvvvOur community circle existed in time for just 91 minutes during Tierra Viva (Farming the Living Earth), the hemisphere-wide conference that was summoned into being by the Biodynamic Association. But over those 91 minutes the 30+ people in the workshop circle brainstormed a resourceful vision for CSA farms going forward.

Our Community CSA Circle took up three challenge questions:

What healthy impulses are trying to emerge related to CSA farms?
How can we cultivate those impulses?
How do communities become awakened to CSA necessities and possibilities?

Overall, the Tierra Viva conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico successfully bridged agrarian wisdom ways of Europe with the indigenous wisdom traditions and innovations of all the Americas. Within the time allotted during the conference, our brief workshop circle successfully conceived of and expressed necessary visionary elements for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

In facilitating the CSA workshop I had skilled support from my wife, Elizabeth Wolf. We began by handing out copies of the European CSA Declaration, and also Elizabeth Henderson’s draft proposal for a Community CSA Charter for the USA. Then I offered talk with slides to explore the history, motivation, context, status, and possibilities for CSA (click here for a narrated Youtube version of the educational slide show).

In my talk I emphasized the extreme conditions we all face regarding climate, economics, industrial agriculture, and politics. These are the hard realities in which CSA farms will either bloom or wither. Finally, the workshop circle of more than 30 people got to work. Via structured group process they developed the following visionary responses to the challenge questions.

 1. – What healthy impulses are trying to emerge?

  • People want transparency regarding where their food comes from and how it was produced, and they have a fundamental human right to that knowledge. CSA meets that need, which is increasingly recognized by the public.
  • Considering the radical changes in climate, economics and politics, and the swelling diet-related epidemics of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and so forth, it’s a practical necessity to establish many sources of clean, unadulterated food. CSA farms are effective not just in terms of increasing healthy food sources, but also for increasing food sovereignty, food security, and opportunities for farm and food justice. These are all healthy impulses, imbued with proven wisdom and practical common sense.
  • CSA farms promote human health because the food grown is fresher, healthier. Belonging to a CSA naturally leads to a healthier diet.
  • Physical, rowspractical and spiritual benefits arise for participants in CSA farming. CSA puts shareholders in greater tune with nature. This instinctual impulse to connect with the earth that sustains us is inherent in healthy people; consequently farming and gardening are healing and stabilizing for human beings, and of critical importance as we continue to face extreme and intensifying conditions in our digital era. Biodynamic principles and practices support and enhance all of this.
  • Collaborative decision-making is another emergent impulse. The matrix of roles and responsibilities necessary within a community farm are generally too much for one person, or even one couple, and so there is growing recognition that CSA farms can benefit from greater community involvement and collaboration.
  • The land needs to be healed, as do our bodies. Many people feel the essential rhythm of this impulse. Farming and food consumption are keys, because agriculture is the most basic and essential way human beings interact with the earth, and food is the building block of personal and social well being.

2. – How can we cultivate these impulses?

Encourage opportunities for people to feel they belong to their CSA farm. Let people know they’re not just customers or subscribers, but rather shareholders with an essential stake in the farm. This requires that people actually come to the farm; some of the most successful CSAs (those with a high retention rates) have physical pick-up of shares at the farm or opportunities for members to work at the farm or otherwise engage with the farm.

  • Designate CSA participants as members or shareholders, rather than as customers or consumers, to make their role clear. In a true CSA – as opposed to a customer-food subscription business – people are not “buying boxes of food,” they are providing direct support to a whole farm or farms, and then partaking in a share of the harvest. This is a key distinction as it moves CSA out of the commercial marketplace, where it was never intended to be, and into the realm of free-will community association, which is a fundamental CSA concept.
  • Establish circle2“core groups” to create a strong and reliable network of farm support, similar to the way volunteer Boards of Directors serve food coops. While the CSA core group concept hasn’t been popular in CSAs in recent years, it does “take a village” to make a CSA work at the highest possible level. Considering the radically changing circumstances in climate, politics and economics, the core group model – drawing on collective intelligence and resources – is well worth re-considering.
  • Help farmers with the tremendous number of roles and responsibilities they fulfill for a CSA above and beyond their work on the land. For example, via the agency of a core group or otherwise, shareholder volunteers could help with communications, marketing, and event planning.
  • Enhanceconsilience community awareness of environmental issues. CSAs connect people to the earth viscerally. Through that connection people become more firmly rooted in the places where they live and in the natural world, which supports life. Food is a binding impulse that can transcend political orientation. Food is an effective way to invite people into a real community conversation, and to combine their skills and resources to become more effectively and skillfully resilient in the face of the great challenges.
  • Recognize that CSA farms can unite the community regardless of individual political affiliations. CSA members experience the farm as a way to build community.
  • Involve shareholders as “CSA ambassadors” to recruit new community members and to educate people on the costs and benefits of CSA farms.
  • Involve CSA members in the farm’s budget process. Set the budget pre-season, and then ask the community to step up and support the farm by funding the budget.
  • Cultivate healthy CSA impulses through education. It is a powerful idea and practice for schools to be allied with a farm, to get kids involved in growing and cooking food early on. It is effective to arrange many food-related activities on the farm, such as educational workshops and festivals.
  • Modeling a way of life and demonstrating the benefits of CSA helps to cultivate healthy impulses.
  • Establish networks of communication among the farms in a geographic region so that CSAs can readily cooperate with each other.
  • Advocate the idea of land as a community resource, rather than as a means of monetary profit. What use and model will best preserve and enrich the land and also benefit the community?
  • Provide space for gatherings. Share food, have regular pizza nights or potlucks that bring shareholders and friends to the farm regularly.
  • Organize festivals, such as annual planting or harvest get-togethers, to draw people to the farm. These activities are often best organized by the farm’s shareholders, since the farmers themselves are busy planting, cultivating and harvesting.
  • Engage older CSA farmers as mentors for younger farmers, especially older farmers who are getting ready to retire or to assume a different role in the farm. Plan for succession.
  1. How do communities become awakened?
  • Cobolothunderbirdmmunities often awaken late because of direct crisis, but they can also awaken from intelligent pursuit of  models and opportunities.  Dialogue can be a big factor in this; thus, it’s important to continue to articulate not just the economic and health dimensions of CSA farms, but also the social and ecological benefits.
  • Build “on-farm education” into the structure of the CSA. Educate about the benefits beyond the dollar value by showing the quantitative and qualitative benefits of a community farm for people, animals, land, economy and climate.
  • The CSA workshop circle was most united in recognizing that the strongest way to awaken community is by having people engage with the farm itself.
  • Farms themselves demonstrate collaboration among plants, animals, and human beings, so observation of the farm can provide a model of collaboration for human communities. (Consilience Enhances Resilience)
  • “Share Fairs” held before spring planting have proven themselves as effective recruitment tools for CSA. One recent share fair in Oregon drew 2,500 to 3,000 people. Many more such fairs around the country can help to educate the public and recruit new CSA farm shareholders.
  • Low-income communities and other disenfranchised groups can benefit greatly from CSA involvement, and it is very much worthwhile to reach out to them.
  • Dialogue can make a powerful and positive impact on awakening individuals, households and communities. Look for opportunities to dialogue with others beyond the community of active shareholders. In this it’s important to include hands-on education to supplement the conceptual.
  • Partnerships with businesses, churches, neighborhood, village and homeowners associations can build awareness of CSA.awaken

* Tierra Viva (Farming the Living Earth) was the North American conference of the Biodynamic Association, November 16-20, 2016 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

Prepping for Resilient Community: Wherever Two or More are Gathered

Note: This article originally published in Applied Biodynamics, journal of the Josephine Porter Institute (Issue No. 90, Fall/Winter 2016-17).

As the Sun approached Summer Solstice, my friend Stephen Clarke stopped by to visit. He sat with me at the picnic table by our garden. In the afternoon light we talked.

Pollen Boy at the Sun - Chaudry

Pollen Boy at the Sun – Chaudron

Stephen spun out for me the tale of his recent journey up onto the Colorado Plateau near the Lukachukai Mountains, close by the imaginary straight line that legally, if not naturally, separates Arizona and New Mexico. Among many elements, this part of the Navajo Reservation is a place of high elevation, white reeds, rich farmland, uranium, tangled history and big sky.

Stephen made his journey to sit with some Navajo friends as part of a week-long Nadáá healing ceremony. He’s an astute observer of matters physical and metaphysical, one of the founding parents of both the Taos and the Santa Fe Waldorf Schools in New Mexico, and also the former proprietor and master mechanic at Mozart’s Garage.

In telling the tale of his visit to Lukachukai, he mentioned how the community of people came together in hard work and good fellowship to abide with one another over a week and to make ceremony expressing timeless ways and courtesies, all woven together within a group energy field of respect and humor many times larger than themselves.

“Native people know how to cooperate in community,” he told me. “It’s silent, it’s unspoken, but it is known and known implicitly by everyone. I see that as the Christ energy in expression. Not as a thought or a feeling, but in action. That’s it for sure. I could see it once again as I sat among the people. The Christ spirit lives in the ethers – the biosphere – as it circulates among people and the natural world.”

When I heard Stephen share his observation it summoned for me the seed thought expressed in Matthew (18:19-20) “…if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them…For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”


                     Stephen Clarke

“Sure,” he agreed. “That fits. Native people know already that the spirit lives in the land and in their relationships with one another. As part of their way, for thousands of years they have had the understanding of spirit life on a practical level.

“There’s a western axiom that ‘the map is not the territory.’ But that’s not so in traditional Native contexts. The land itself is the map and that land map is also indivisibly the territory wherein life unfolds. Physicality and spirituality are not separated by concepts or perceptions, to be worshiped in a metaphysical superstructure high off the ground, but are appreciated as one interpenetrating and mutually revealing reality. Native people have the land as source of spirituality and as the reference point for their spiritual lives.”

Stephen’s story put me in mind of community supported agriculture (CSA), the movement that took root some 30 years ago in the USA with the inspiration of biodynamic understandings, ideals and techniques. I’ve been involved as a reporter and participant since the start, and thus had a chance to observe the development of CSA in the USA over three decades.

Over that span of time many thousands of people in all parts of the world have come to recognize in CSA a vehicle for approaching land, food, labor, environment and community in a healthier way. But as of late the community dimension, and the intrinsic aspect of relationship to the land, have often been marginalized. Efficiency has assumed primacy with institutional efforts to employ CSA as a “market strategy.” In my view, treating CSA as a “market strategy” is not only antithetical to the initial impulses, but also woefully inadequate to the challenges of our time.

agenda21earthOur era is sharply marked by the mounting, menacing clouds of climate chaos, paralleled by dramatic and urgent shifts in global politics, economics, and social relations. Much more than a market strategy is required. I remain steadfast in my conviction that CSA can play a key role in addressing these issues. It’s time to expand exponentially the CSA vision and reality to hundreds of thousands of community farms around the world, and time also to evolve consciously the community and the associative economic dimensions of CSA.

As Stephen related, Navajo relatives in Lukachukai — with grace and spiritual intelligence, via basic interactions with each other and nature — demonstrated their understanding and appreciation of community and spiritual realities. It’s their way. And their way is part of the strength of the rootstock: the native spiritual, cultural and agricultural knowings that have been cultivated and developed in North America for 30,000 years or more.

tree+rootsA rootstock is part of a plant, often an underground part, from which new above-ground growth can be produced. Grafting refers to the process by which a plant, sometimes just a stump with an established root system, serves as the base onto which cuttings (scions) from another plant are joined.

The cultural ways that arrived in North America from Europe, Africa, Asia and the far south, have never been deliberately grafted on to the rootstock. Instead, there has been a concerted, systematic, violent and tragic attempt to annihilate the rootstock of native wisdom through protracted campaigns of genocide, wholesale landgrabbing, and systematic treaty violations. That pattern has generated a massive energy field of karma, as yet unreckoned, but now coming into focus as tribes gather at Standing Rock in a historic action to protect the earth for life.

A successful, healthy, conscious grafting of the world’s cultural and spiritual ways to the rootstock of Turtle Island (North America) would, I believe, yield an abundant harvest of goodness, including more respectful, appreciative attitudes toward the land that sustains us all, as well as the agriculture systems we employ to bring forth it’s bounty. Biodynamic agriculture and preparations can play a key role in this critical matter

The initial Biodynamic perceptions and preparations were indigenous to Europe. Now the perceptions and preparations are global, and they are employed in many different ways in many different geographical and cultural contexts, including North America. The Biodynamic impulse can benefit enormously from being more deliberately and skillfully grafted with the rootstock of native knowings. Both will be strengthened. This kind of healthy grafting is certainly a prominent theme in the 2016 North American Biodynamic Conference set for Santa Fe, and rightly so. Much good is likely to arise from this sharing and reciprocity.

But beyond the 2016 conference, fundamental grafting and community questions need to come more into focus. The questions are not just philosophical, but also practical. Considering the status of climate change, they’re also urgent.

spiralIs there, or could there be, a biodynamic preparation that aids, nurtures and supports the grafting of the world’s wide array of cultural and agricultural traditions to the native rootstock and wisdom ways so inseparably a part of North America?

And what kinds of biodynamic preparations could help magnetize the land and thereby rightly draw to it the interest and dedication of diverse groups of people (communities) who will willingly take on responsibility for caring for it as a farm? In other words, how might Biodynamic understandings and preparations continue to foster the growth and healthy development of CSAs, which can help make an important, positive difference as we all seek to reckon with the momentous changes afoot?

I taled briefly with the Josephine Porter Institute’s Board President, Pat Frazier, about some of these questions. Speaking by cell phone after just having finished milking chores on her Colorado farm, she suggested that as far as community and cultural grafting go, there are indeed intriguing possibilities that could be taken up by biodynamic researchers. But in the present, she said, a good starting point is with a familiar prep that’s already been developed: barrel compost. “Barrel compost is oftentimes created in community,” she said. “It just lends itself to that. It’s easy to make, it joins people together, and it’s transferable to community because once the compost dug out of the pit you can store it, and then share it widely.”

My sense is that both kinds of preparations – a grafting prep and a community prep – could help usher us to the level of strength, courage, intelligence and will necessary to meet the challenges of our era.


Note: I will be facilitating a workshop at the North American Biodynamic Conference in Santa Fe, NM, Nov. 16-20, 2016. The workshop is titled CSA Farms: Awakening Community Intelligence. Stephen Clarke will also be presenting via the conference track for the Agricultural Wisdom of the Americas: Entwining Biodynamic and Indigenous Ways of Working with the Land.

Consilience Enhances Resilience

My essay on a bit of word play (consilience enhances resilience) – and the words’ relevance for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) – has been online for some time at Mother Earth News. The linking words in this simple rhyme are worth remembering and applying.



Grafting the Food System to America’s Rootstock

As we are rocked by repeated waves of climate change, and sharp shifts in politics, economics, and society, something durable is called for – something strong, wise, rooted in the land, waiting at last to find a home in our souls.

The core native knowings that have been part of culture and agriculture on this land for 10,000 years or more can enhance our capacity to respond adroitly to the dissolving and shattering forces aroused in our era. For the sake of integrity and resilience, it’s time finally to consciously graft the variety of cultures that have come to roost on North America with the rootstock.

Grafting - wikipedia commons

Grafting – wikipedia commons

Grafting refers to the process by which a plant serves as the base (rootstock) onto which cuttings from other plants are joined (the scions). Grafting ensures a strong, healthy and productive crown, arising from a mature root system. It’s also a useful metaphor.

The rainbow array of cultural and agricultural ways that have entered onto the continent from Europe, Africa, Asia and southern latitudes, have never been grafted to the rootstock of Turtle Island (North America). Instead there has been an ongoing violent, systematic effort to annihilate rootstock ways through genocide, land theft, and treaty violations. That pattern has generated a massive energy field of karma, as yet unreckoned.

Now, in an era of pervasive change, it’s both an auspicious and a decisive time for the individuals, groups, states and nations of North America to face the historic and contemporary reality by learning more deeply about, respecting actively, and engaging more constructively with the cultural and agricultural rootstock of the land we now share.

As it happens, a grafting impulse is one of the unifying themes woven into the fabric of the upcoming North American Biodynamic Farming Conference* ~ Tierra Viva (Farming the Living Earth). The conference will draw together a multitude of the diverse cultural and agricultural wisdom streams that are part of modern life in the Americas. Come November the conference will create time and space for fusion on the high mountain plains – the altiplano if you will – of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The biodynamic farming and gardening movement is one of many natural scions available for grafting to North America’s cultural and agricultural rootstock. But I feel that biodynamics in particular is a propitious domain for such fusion. A forerunner of organics, biodynamics embraces metaphysical realities that organics chooses not to factor in, and strives to work intelligently with subtle forces. When biodynamics was germinating as an agricultural discipline back in the 1920s, teacher Rudolf Steiner encouraged farmers to make use of an ancient principle from the indigenous knowings native to Europe and elsewhere: “Spirit is never without matter, matter never without spirit.”

hoopNative peoples indigenous to the Americas have likewise long appreciated this foundational truth, and held it in the forefront as they refined a culture and agriculture particular to this place, North America, over 10,000 years or more. Rather than using abstract intellectual constructs such as quantum field theory or general relativity, native knowings are conveyed in elegant, tangible metaphors, such as the teaching of the Sacred Hoop (Circle of Life), or the teaching that we have a fundamental responsibility to take care of the earth, for she is indeed our mother (Tierra Madre, Pachamama).

With presenters from the four directions and a rich mix of cultures, grafting will be in the atmosphere at Tierra Viva. Among the farmers, gardeners and grafters whose voices will sound, Larry and Deborah Littlebird of Santo Domingo Pueblo, peacemaker Patricia Ann Davis of the Navajo/Dineh Nation, Emigdio Ballon of Tesuque Pueblo, Dr. Jose Ma Anguiano Cardenas from Nayarit, México, Karen Washington from Rise & Root farm in New York City, Helmy Abouleish from Egypt, Sally Fox of Verditas Farm, and author/chef Deborah Madison from Galisteo, New Mexico.

Cultural and Agricultural Wisdom of the Americas
The rootstock cultural and agricultural knowings of North America constitute basic understandings for long-term survival on this land. The knowings have been gained not over mere centuries, but over many thousands of years. In light of our present circumstances, these basic knowings are both relevant and essential.

For some time healthy natural grafting processes have been progressing in the array of agroecological movements toward clean, wholesome land, water and food, such as good food, slow food, organic food, food justice, food sovereignty, and a variety of First Nations initiatives. These are all positive and promising, but just a fraction of the food system.

tree+rootsWhere grafting is acutely needed is in the industrialized, chemicalized, genetically manipulated and patented realms of corporate culture and agriculture. They dominate our food system. And that food system has become one of the most ecologically destructive forces on our planet, a leading contributor to climate chaos. The agriculture system’s dependence on dense, lifeless minerals and an array of poisons, exists in parasitic parallel with an increasingly dense and sick culture at large.

The structure of the dominant food system has origins that extend back through history at least to genocide of native people and theft of their land, to slavery on farms and plantations, to the corporate forces which have driven hundreds of thousands of farm families off the land, to our current wholesale dependence upon, and exploitation of farm workers. All that has to be faced, reckoned with, and resolved, or it remains toxic – toxic in a turbulent era.

But the potential is there for the dominant food system to begin intelligently and skillfully grafting its culture and agriculture to the rootstock.  A good starting point would be embracing the teaching of the Seventh Generation –  to take into consideration the impact that every corporate project or action will have on our children’s children’s children unto the seventh generation. When a person or a corporation is sure decisions and actions will not harm, but rather will bring benefit to that seventh generation, then it’s time to act.  What a profound difference that simple graft could make if taken sincerely.

The healing proposition of grafting has for centuries been eloquently told through the hemisphere-wide saga of The Condor and the Eagle as they are joined via the agency of the Quetzal. It’s an uplifting story, and it expresses a core understanding held by many traditional people in North, South and Central America. Simply hearing the story and paying attention to it creates a healthy bond of understanding.

In keeping with both traditional and emerging understandings, the North American Biodynamic conference in Santa Fe holds promise for further cultural and agricultural grafting progress.

~ END ~

*Note: I‘m a member of the Biodynamic Association, and also one of the presenters at the upcoming Tierra Viva conference. Having had years of involvement with CSA farms and food coops, as well as having had the opportunity to walk thousands miles with native wisdom keepers, I’m strongly drawn to exploration of the cultural and agricultural grafting theme. At the conference I’ll facilitate a workshop titled CSA Farms: Awakening Community Intelligence. ~ S.M.

R.I.P. Trauger Groh, Agrarian Adept

July 27, 2016 – With sorrow, I note the death this morning of my friend and colleague Trauger Groh, 83, of the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire, one of the oldest continuously operating CSAs in the USA. Trauger is survived by his wife, Alice, and their two adult children, Nicola and Theo, by his daughters in Germany (Daniela, Brigida, Christina, and Patricia), seven grand children, and five great grandchildren. Trauger is also survived by the community farm, still thriving and poised to go forward on the paths he helped to lay out over 30 years ago.

To honor Trauger (1932-2016) and his many contributions to the world at large and in particular to farm communities around the world, I offer the following appreciation. It’s something I wrote earlier this year for the Biodynamic Association.

Trauger Groh, Agrarian Adept

In the late 1980s I had the good fortune to meet Trauger Groh in New Hampshire, and to engage wholeheartedly with him on the subject of farms and the fundamental role they play in human existence. It took only an hour or two for me to recognize that I was associating with an Agrarian Adept.

Trauger Groh

Trauger Groh

The word adept derives from Latin, adeptus, meaning one who has attained the highest level of knowledge and skill in a field of endeavor. In olden times the term was applied to accomplished alchemists, or in a general metaphysical sense to an initiate who had mastered the Mysteries.

To me it seems altogether natural and fitting to attach adept as an epithet to convey respect to both Trauger and his wife Alice Bennett Groh, and to his longtime agrarian compatriots, Anthony Graham and Lincoln Geiger. Together they helped initiate a profound form of healing for land, plants, animals and people: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). This form will endure, I feel, to benefit future generations.

Having worked most closely with Trauger over the years, I want to bring forward some words of appreciation for him and his contributions. He has been an important teacher for me, and for thousands of other people. A biodynamic farmer for over 40 years, Trauger has also lectured worldwide on farm-related issues, biodynamics, and Anthroposophy. His presentations have informed and inspired people in beneficially enduring ways.

Beginning his career in Northern Germany at Buschberg Farm in the 1960s, Trauger studied thoroughly the concepts of biodynamic farming and community co-op programs. In concert with his farm colleagues of that era, he actively cultivated anthroposophic and biodynamic understandings. Together they recognized that new economic, social and agricultural forms were essential. Under the intensifying shadow of corporate industrial agriculture, they strove to create a wider, village-like arrangement based on free-will associations of households with the farm.

Trauger then brought his experience, insight and leadership to the USA in the 1980s, where he made his contributions to the founding of CSA in North America. It’s now 30 growing seasons since Trauger, Anthony, Lincoln and community initiated the biodynamic Temple-Wilton Community Farm in Southern New Hampshire.

CSA arose in the world in response what might be termed a community supported impulse, something that, as Lincoln Geiger once observed, was in the ethers 30 and 40 years ago. Many people were sensing and responding to that impulse with creative innovation. Trauger was among the first and most eloquent exponents of the emerging CSA concepts.

farms.of_.TAs I entered into a series of deep and far-ranging conversations with him, Trauger gradually articulated the core ideas that found expression not only in CSA farms, but also in the books we eventually co-authored: Farms of Tomorrow in 1990, and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited in 1998. Trauger insisted that both of those editions include the lengthy, but essential subtitle: Community Supported Farms, Farm Supported Communities. He wanted to emphasize the absolute importance of that reciprocal relationship.

Because so many of the ideas articulated by Trauger made a deep and lasting impression on me, and on the wider world as well, I want to rearticulate a few of them in capsule form. They are ideas likely to continue informing the world for years to come.

  • Our relationship with nature and the ways that we use the land will determine the future of the earth.
  • Farming is not just a business like any other profit-making business, but a precondition of human life on earth. As such, farming is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is not just another new and clever approach to marketing. Rather, CSA is about the necessary renewal of agriculture through its healthy linkage with the human community that depends on farming for survival.
  • CSA is also about the necessary stewardship of soil, plants, and animals: the essential capital of human cultures.

As Trauger later wrote in his autobiography (Personal Recollections: Remembering My Life and Those Who Mean So Much to Me, 2010), “That farms flourish must be the concern of everyone, not just the individuals working as farmers.”

The idea was for the community to support the whole farm, not just to be occasional consumers buying sacks of carrots, or lettuce or squash. Rather than an agriculture supported by government subsidies, private profits, or martyrs to the cause, CSA pioneers strove to create organizational forms that would provide direct, free will support for farm and farmers from the people who eat their food. That way the farm is in a position to reciprocate and to support the community.

The efforts of CSA pioneers were aimed at the basic economy of finding ways to free farmers to do the tasks that are right for the farm, the people, and the earth. This remains a lofty ideal that many farms and communities of today continue to reach toward, but it’s a concept often overlooked by groups promoting CSA as a “marketing strategy.”

Temple Wilton Community Farm

Temple Wilton Community Farm

As Trauger recognized early on, there is fundamental goodness inherent in the coming together of human beings in community and bonded together by a group will to reckon intelligently with the great challenges before us: climate change, environmental degradation, economic instability, and social upheaval. Thanks to Trauger’s articulate expression of the key ideas, many people came to recognize in biodyanmics and CSA forms of agriculture that reach beyond the cultivation of pesticide-free crops, and which reckon also with the challenges of inner development. It is a service to humanity and to the earth.

In his teaching and writing over the years, Trauger elucidated and amplified Rudolf Steiner’s observations concerning modern food lacking the forces that human beings need to develop moral impulses fitting for this era of history and for what lies ahead.

As biodynamic farmers understand, Steiner’s statements asserted that moral impulses are fundamental in human nature. He saw that a foundation of morality and goodness lies at the core of the human soul, but that over the course of evolution human beings have diverged from an instinctual foundation of goodness, allowing what is wrong, hurtful, immoral and evil to be expressed.

“This,” Steiner taught, “is a problem of nutrition. Nutrition as it is today does not supply the strength necessary for manifesting the spirit in physical life. A bridge can no longer be built from thinking to will and action. Food plants no longer contain the forces people need for this.”

Taking this up as a part of his life work, Trauger engaged the issue with resolve: “How can our diet support not only our physical health, but also the development of our spiritual faculties so that they function in the best way?” Farmers have the potential to bridge earth and sky since they can influence the drawing down of cosmic forces and the drawing up of earth forces. Biodynamics strives to engage this interaction intelligently.

Trauger actively and adroitly advanced the case of biodynamic agriculture, and helped greatly in the striving to re-establish the concept of agriculture serving to cultivate a world permeated by life and a life-giving spirit.

By now, 30 years after beginning in Europe, Japan, the USA and elsewhere, CSA farms are in every part of the world. The books I co-authored with Trauger (Farms of Tomorrow and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited) have been translated into German, Russian, Japanese, Korean and other languages. This year they are also being translated into Mandarin (Chinese) thanks to the efforts of Waldorf and Biodynamic communities in Taiwan. Much more lies ahead.

When I spoke with Alice Bennett Groh in the aftermath of a 2014 honoring ceremony for the Temple-Wilton Community farmers sponsored by the Peterborough Grange in New Hampshire, she made an important observation about the work of Trauger, his agrarian colleagues, and their community: “It is unusual, to say the least, maybe even miraculous, that in these times of great social struggle that something that we approached with idealism and dedication has prospered and has had such a profound effect in the world.”

Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Trauger Groh, his agrarian compatriots, and thousands of farm communities, those profound effects will continue to resonate basic goodness for many years to come.    ~ Steven McFadden

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In lieu of flowers the Groh family requests that gifts be made to High Mowing School, Pine Hill Waldorf School, and the Temple-Wilton Community Farm.

CSA Farms are a Righteous Response to Climate Emergency & Food-System Shock

Right around the start of the year climate scientists began to use a new phrase to talk about the condition of our Earth. Climate emergency, they began to say. In so doing they were giving voice to the hard truth that, in the view of many climatologists, we’ve already tipped the scales past a point of no return. We are living out the early stages of massive, planet-wide climate upheaval.

tornadClimate distortion has been speeding up year after year and the distortions are continuing to accelerate according to NASA. Earth has just endured seven straight months of record-shattering heat. Thus, in 2016 we are on track to experience the largest increase ever in global temperature.

Just before climate scientists began uttering the phrase “climate emergency,” the prestigious international insurance company, Lloyd’s of London, issued a formal report titled Food System Shock. The report spoke bluntly of acute disruptions to the global food supply. Meanwhile, 30 of the world’s largest insurance companies, known for their conservative approach in all matters, established a formal coalition (SmarterSafer) to sound the alarm about our extreme circumstances. Climate chaos is happening, and it’s going to be increasingly costly and perilous for everyone.

There is an urgent need to reckon with the impact to our environment and our food, an ominous message being articulated by many learned groups, including The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

It’s dangerous to remain distracted or asleep about these hard realities. It’s past time to wake up. We are well underway in an era of profound changes in our climate and economics as well as our health and social well-being.

With respect to this, I’m sounding a call for the establishment of hundreds of thousands more sustainable farms on the model of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). There is much to be gained for everyone.

Farmers cannot do this alone, especially not if CSA is pursued as some kind of a “marketing model.”  To thrive in our extreme era, CSA cannot be downgraded to a competitive selling system dependent on “customers.”  CSA was never intended for that purpose. CSA embodies the potential for a new way of life upon the land for farm, farmers and supporting community. The economics are associative, rather than competitive or exploitive. Some progress has been made in that direction, and much more is possible.

The wide array of community based initiatives to increase local food production that have emerged over the last 30 years (ranging from farm-to-school lunch programs and farmer’s markets, to reward programs for restaurants that buy food locally, and beyond) are all of tremendous value and importance.

But in my view, among all the initiatives and innovations, CSA stands out as a promising model for many millions of people and hundreds of thousands of communities. It’s a way for people to respond intelligently and strategically to our intensifying climate dilemma. CSA does not leave the great challenges of our era in the lap of farmers alone. At its intended potential, CSA draws upon the strength, intelligence and resources of all the people who of their free-will choice depend upon the farm.

Over the last three decades hundreds of thousands of people in the US and all parts of the world (URGENCI) have come to recognize in CSA a vehicle for approaching land, food, labor, environment, and community in a healthier way. The movement has made some noteworthy progress. Much more is necessary. Now we need many millions more to awaken to similar basic realizations about climate problems and CSA potentials.

CSAs are a righteous response to our unfolding climate emergency. They are resilient, egalitarian, and a fundamentally healthy foundation for the high-speed, high-tech digital culture emerging so dynamically in our world. CSAs have an established track record in America, Canada, Europe, Japan and around the world from east to west. The model has been tested and refined. It’s not government, and it’s not corporate. It’s a choice and a free will association with a farm and a farmer. Thousands of people have applied their intelligence and experience to create and cultivate the CSA model over the last 30 years.

Right now we need hundreds of thousands more communities to see the need and the potential, and to swiftly establish CSA farms.

CSA farms amplify food security. They involve diverse communities of people (from neighborhoods, churches and businesses) in sustainable farming activities that increase food security and quality, while at the same time building clean, healthy soil to trap greenhouse gases.

Right now one-third of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions come from industrial agriculture, as reported in Nature, the international weekly journal of science. Reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint is crucial to limiting climate change. CSA farms employ the principles of agroecology, which provides a robust set of solutions to environmental pressures and crises. Virtually all CSA farms are either organic or biodynamic. They sequester greenhouse gases, and help stabilize the earth’s climate. Hundreds of thousands of CSA farms around the world could help to make a difference.

In our era with increasing shadows of climate, environmental and social complications, it’s time to expand exponentially the CSA vision and reality. The opportunity is before us to establish hundreds of thousands of CSA farms in nations around the world, and to thereby employ a proven, egalitarian model to address our radically changing circumstances.

Community farms, in their many variations, can be key models for shifting our reality toward healthy.


Sounding a call for hundreds of thousands more CSA Farms


Would you rather participate in a nightmare or a vision? The nightmare is here and intensifying: climate chaos. Each person, each family, and each community has to reckon with it some way. Community farms (CSAs) are a clean, intelligent and strategic response.

As daily news reports awaken public awareness of profound changes in our climate, economics as well as in our environmental and social well-being, I’m sounding a call for the establishment of hundreds of thousands more sustainable farms on the model of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Over the last three decades hundreds of thousands of people in the US and all parts of the world have come to recognize in CSA a vehicle for approaching land, food, labor, environment, and community in a healthier way.

CSA farms amplify food security, and involve diverse communities of people (from neighborhoods, churches and businesses) in sustainable farming activities that increase food security while building healthy soil to trap greenhouse gases.

According to the USDA, as many as 12,000 new CSA farms have been established in the USA since 1986, directly linking people with the farmers who grow their food. Many thousands more CSA farms have taken root internationally.

I’ve been writing about CSA farms since their inception in the USA in the late 1980s. With Trauger Groh, I’m co-author of the first two books on CSA farms (Farms of Tomorrow in 1990, and Farms of Tomorrow Revisited in 1998). I’m also the author of The Call of the Land: An Agrarian Primer, and Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones.

2016 biodynamic conference - horizontal bannerIn late 2015 I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the Midwest CSA Conference. Later this year I’ll present a workshop on CSA farms at the upcoming Tierra Viva (Farming the Living Earth) conference of the Biodynamic Association, to be held at the Santa Fe Convention Center, November 16-20, 2016). My intention is to keep sounding the call both near and far.

As I’ve reported, “In an era with increasing shadows of climate, environmental and social complications, it’s time to expand exponentially the CSA vision and reality. The opportunity is before us to establish hundreds of thousands of CSA farms in nations around the world, and to thereby employ a proven, egalitarian model to address the radically changing circumstances in our environment, climate, economics, and social relationships.”

Memes – Thought Awakeners – for Community Well-being

In recognition of the many personal, community and global benefits that arise from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), I’ve created a series of memes to help awaken thought on the potentials that can be realized.

CSA farms are continuing to develop in nations around the world. They are arising not as initiatives of corporations or governments, but rather directly out of the intelligence and active free-will choices of individuals and communities (neighborhoods, regions, churches, workplaces, etc.). They see the challenges and opportunities, of our era, and they choose to respond with wisdom.

You are welcome to copy or download any or all of the following five memes, and to use them in any way (social media, etc.) that may help promote and advance your CSA farm or community food project, or help you to get one underway.  ~ Steven McFadden