My video conversation with Brooke Medicine Eagle about The Call of the Land and the accompanying slide show, is freely available now on Youtube. To learn more about deep agroecology and the possibilities for our food and farms, follow this link.
Driven by the shuttered economies and supply chain disruptions provoked by the Coronavirus, and our basic human survival instincts, people have churned up a tsunami of affirmative agroecological activity toward securing garden seeds, growing food cooperatively, and otherwise connecting with local farms.
Good thing. Pay attention. On March 26 the Director General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Qu Dongyu, stated “the COVID19 pandemic is affecting food systems and all dimensions of food security across the world…”
It’s not just the pandemic that’s making things dicey. Tough restrictions at the US-Mexico border have observers suspecting that skilled farmworkers may be in short supply, undermining the capacity of farms to be productive. Shocks to the food system are possible.
But thanks to the work of a wide network of agroecological enterprises, there are many pathways for people to help develop and accelerate a wave of affirmative agroecological farm-and-food responses for enhanced food security…
The rest of my blog post is at Mother Earth News.
The United Nations has declared the years 2019-2028 to be the “Decade of Family Farming.” With this declaration the UN intends to create opportunities for people to transform existing food systems around the world so they are clean, sustainable, and just both economically and socially.
In this manner the UN hopes our farms can be key actors in helping the world achieve the urgent markers of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Necessary goals, no debate about that. But at the end of the very first year of the special UN Decade (2019), here in America our family farms are swiftly swirling down the drain. It’s an economic, climate, environmental, and social catastrophe fast surpassing the tribulations of the 1980s farm crisis.
This time, for America and for the world, the stakes are heaps higher…
Reality, not ideology, makes morphing of the family farm mandatory….
The rest of my blog post is at Mother Earth News.
The way we tend the land that produces our food, and the way we eat, are the key factors in our physical, moral, and spiritual survival and evolution.
My recognition of this fundamental fact is, of course, shared by many people. Among those who see this reality, and who can give the situation eloquent expression, is Jean-Paul Courtens of Roxbury Farm in Kinderhook, NY.
As it happens, CSA and biodynamic farmer Courtens has recently become a grandfather. He mentioned that happy fact publicly in March when he spoke at Dartmouth College as part of the Real Organic Project’s symposium. And then he dug deep into the subject.
A video of his 15-minute talk is available through my full blog on this topic at Mother Earth News. I highly recommend watching and learning…
Our classic book Farms of Tomorrow Revisited continues to support the development of healthy farm & food community linkages.
With all that’s happening in the world in general, and to our farms and food in particular, I was happy to read this positive, edifying review of one of my books on the subject of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The book is titled Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones.
I wrote this slender volume – a vision and a call to action – in 2015, immediately after my twin brother Michael died. I felt his spirit urging me to direct in a constructive way the maelstrom of feelings that swarmed me within and without. Awakening Community Intelligence is the result.
The substantive review appears in the current edition of the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.
Here’s the review’s first paragraph: “In the slender volume Awakening Community Intelligence, journalist and long-time community supported agriculture (CSA) advocate Steven McFadden argues for the exponential expansion of CSAs. In the face of profound, disruptive challenges in the 21st century—climate change, resource depletion, geopolitical instability—McFadden believes CSAs have the potential to become “community cornerstones” that provide “key points of stability and orientation.” In ten very short chapters, McFadden unfolds his vision of this potential and issues a call to action…”
My wife Elizabeth and I went to watch Inconvenient Sequel the other night in a sparsely populated movie theater. It’s a stunning film. We walked out of the theater feeling exceedingly sober, and with renewed determination to support clean, non-polluting technologies which are elements of an imperative, intelligent response.
The new film is a sequel to Inconvenient Truths, both films produced by Al Gore, and both reporting the hard reality of what climate change is actually doing to our planetary support systems. The acceleration in the number of and frequency of documented, climate-related, ultra-extreme weather events is dramatic. The charts showing the rate of temperature change in polar regions and the world’s primary farming areas is stunning.
With all that’s going on in the world through the summer of 2017, I suppose climate change can seem like mere background noise. But of course it’s not. It’s real, it’s here, it’s intensifying, and we and our children and grandchildren will contend with the impact for decades to come. Climate chaos right now is a driving force behind the breakup of the North and South Poles, sea-level shifts, massive flooding events, droughts, resource wars, widespread migration of insect pests and diseases, massive waves of human refugees, and more.
After the first film came out in 2006 cadres of corporate-backed climate change deniers accused Mr. Gore of being “hysterical.” But now 10 years later everything that he, and more than 97% of the world’s leading climate scientists projected would happen has in fact already happened. More climate chaos is on the close horizon.
The consequences of ignoring the changes are obvious to all excepting the willfully ignorant. The Sanskrit word vidya means wisdom or knowledge. The prefix “a” signifies a lack or an absence. Adding the prefix to vidya establishes the word avidya, which denotes a fundamental blindness about reality, a refusal to acknowledge and deal with what is happening. Obviously there is a group of determined avidyans among us. Motivated by self-serving contrarian interests, they have poisoned our politics and thereby crippled our ability to respond to this crisis. But as the new film asserts, no lie can live forever.
Around the world most nations have been forced to face the harsh realities that are impacting them. It’s inspiring to see how are responding vigorously by shifting to solar and wind power, and aggressively taking natural and technological steps to mitigate the situation, and to reduce human activities which make extreme climate-change related events increasingly common. Here in the US, however, our politics have been hacked, and we remain crippled in our collective response. For now, individuals and associations must respond on their own, while the government attempts to bury everyone’s brains deep in the muck of illusion.
Knowing that industrial agricultural systems are among the leading causes of pollution and the greenhouse gases that exacerbate climate chaos, I am renewed in my determination to advocate for and to support organic, biodynamic and other agroecological food-production systems that heal the land and that can help mitigate the dangerously intensifying changes. It’s common sense. It’s essential common sense.
The choice is between right and wrong, Mr. Gore asserts toward the end of Inconvenient Sequel. It’s right to protect and defend the natural systems of the earth that make our lives possible. It’s wrong to ignore reality, or to pollute and poison the natural systems and to make the problems worse. It’s wrong to destroy the very things that make our lives possible.
“Fight like your world depends upon it,” Mr. Gore concludes, “because it does.”
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has this month published a report titled Community Supported Agriculture: New Models for Changing Markets. The report highlights changes – from the 1980s to the present – in what the USDA refers to as the “business model” of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
But the report moves me to articulate once again what I consider to be an essential point: CSA was not developed as a marketing strategy. Obviously, some companies and farms choose to approach CSA that way, as is their right. Equally obvious, there is of necessity somewhat of a marketing element involved in most CSAs.
But to assert the idea that CSA is a marketing strategy – as the USDA and many land grant institutions routinely do – is to alter the core ideas of CSA. Even though “business model” and “marketing strategy” have become widespread approaches to CSA, in my view emphasizing those concepts shifts the focus from where it needs to be.
CSA farms will likely always be at a disadvantage in the “market” in the realms of price, consumer choice, and convenience. But that’s not what the CSA model was developed to address. CSA was developed by a wide community of people as a way to renew our relationship with the land, with the people who grow our food, and with each other.
Asserting this view now, in light of the trend to define or frame CSA as a business model, will likely be regarded by some people as either anachronistic, or as dewy-eyed idealism. I’m among those who think otherwise. I think it’s essential to keep the focus and the framing of CSA on the core ideas. CSA is not structured to be part of a competitive commercial marketplace, where market forces will always be the determining factor, rather than farm needs, farmer needs, and community needs. It is, after all, not just community supported agriculture, but also agriculture supported communities.
The steady morphing of CSA from a farm-and-community collaboration to a marketing strategy is, in my view and the view of others, off the mark and ultimately inadequate to the challenges of intensifying political and climate turbulence. Something different is required, and that difference has been the ideal and overlighting spirit of CSA: communities and farmers working together on the land to create new ways of living in relation with each other and the natural world which we all depend upon for survival. Ideals, of course, exist in the realm of the mind, and in practice the best we can do is strive toward them.
To survive and perhaps prosper in an era of climate and political turbulence, CSA needs to remain the realm of mutually beneficial community association. That’s a fundamental CSA concept that gets sidelined or obscured when CSA is treated as a marketing strategy.
Some of this understanding has found expression in the Community CSA Charter that was developed earlier this year by an ad hoc community initiated by CSA author Elizabeth Henderson.
In a community e-mail discussion of various charter drafts, Anthony Graham (a CSA farmer for 30 years at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in NH) made this point eloquently: “Our farm members are just that – members who support the farm. We make it clear to them from the start that they are supporting a farm and receiving the produce as a consequence of that support. They are never seen as or referred to as customers and especially not as consumers. Instead the community aspect of our farm lives here very strongly – almost everyone feels some ownership and willingness to share the risk of crop failures as well as the bounty that can allow them to process extra food for the winter.”
He concluded, “Our farmers have always felt that it is important that we have regarded our farm as a community and not as a business – we always try to aim at agriCULTURE rather than agriBUSINESS.”
To endure and perhaps thrive in our extreme era, CSA cannot be redefined to a competitive selling system dependent on “customers.” CSA was never intended for that purpose.
In a CSA working toward the principles embodied in the CSA Charter (as opposed to a customer-food subscription business) people are not “buying boxes of food.” The people who comprise the community (whether a city neighborhood, a town, a workplace or place of worship) are providing direct support to a whole farm or network of farms, and then partaking in a share of the harvest. This is a key distinction.
CSA embodies the potential for a new way of life upon the land for farm, farmers and supporting community. The economic impulses are associative, rather than competitive or exploitive, the impulses that have impelled industrial agriculture to become such a destructive force nationally and globally.
Some progress has been made in the direction of CSA as a new form of economics and relationship with the land, the farmers, and the people who as a community become part of a farm. Much more is possible. And I think much more is necessary.
I’m pleased to share this press release, just developed by a community of people who recognize the importance of community farms (CSAs), and who see the potential for enhancing our environment, improving our diets, supporting our local farmers, and cooperating for mutual benefit with our neighbors. ~ SM
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms across the United States and Canada are setting roots more deeply in the land as they unite this year under a community-developed Charter for CSAs that provides a clear definition of what CSA farms are all about.
With 30 years of history and development, over 7,500 healthy, sustainable community farms have been established in the US, and many thousands more in Canada. These sustainable farms are directly networked with hundreds of thousands of households in the towns and cities where they are based and provide weekly shares of fresh, healthy, locally-grown food.
Together, regional networks and independent CSAs in the USA and Canada are banding together to launch an innovative and strengthening Charter for CSAs. The Charter will be inaugurated on CSA Sign-up Day, February 24, 2017.
CSAs that endorse the Charter are making a public commitment to uphold the principles and practices delineated in the Charter. It will provide a window of transparency for member households and for farmers, helping define and clarify what CSA farms are all about.
In the words of Elizabeth Henderson, CSA farmer and author of Sharing the Harvest, “CSA is a tremendously flexible concept for consumer-farmer connections. It’s an alternative system of distribution based on community values. The economics of direct sales make this a win-win solution for farmers and farm members. The farmer gets a decent price and the member pays less, since there is no middleman.”
“For the farmer,” she added, “CSA offers the possibility of a broad support group. Those groups are composed of local people who know about the farm, who genuinely care about it’s survival, and who are willing to share the farmer’s risks and rewards.
“In reciprocity, CSA farm members have the opportunity to eat fresh, healthy food, to connect with the earth, to know and trust in the people who grow their food, to deepen their understanding of seasonal eating, to support the local economy, and to take an empowered stance of accepting responsibility for one of our most basic needs.”
Anthony Graham, a farmer for 30 years at the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in New Hampshire, said, “When we started the Temple Wilton Community Farm, we were interested in community and in the ‘culture’ of agriculture. What we were attempting to set up was a way for a community of people to support the existence of a farm through good times and bad by making pledges of financial support over the course of one year. By agreeing to support the existence of the farm our members became co-farmers.”
For more information, contact Elizabeth Henderson, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.