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Consilience Enhances Resilience: A Key Element of CSA Farms

Vegetable rows on a CSA farm.

While preparing a talk for the Midwest CSA farm conference, I inevitably encountered the word resilience, and soon found myself musing about its relation to a word with a similar sound: consilience.

Resilience is about the strength and flexibility that allow people and systems to endure shocks or adversity and yet still be able to re-organize to keep functioning. Consilience describes linking together principles from different disciplines, especially when forming a comprehensive theory or system. It’s a convergence of independent insights and capacities.

In realms such as science, history, and computer networks, consilience has been appreciated for some time. But the concept is fitting as well for the systems we use to bring forth our essential food, wood and fiber from the land, and the need to enhance their resilience.

Definition Of Consilience

As I considered the meaning of the two words it struck me that both nationally and globally, Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) continues to emerge as a key organizational pathway for communities of all sizes and descriptions to express the multiple elements characteristic of consilience and thereby to enhance resilience.

We’re in a time when the idea expressed by that odd combination of words is, in fact, essential. According to the U.S. National Intelligence Council in its project Global Trends 2030, global stability will be threatened in the 15 years ahead of us by changing climate, volatile markets and wars. Meanwhile, the USDA’s new report Climate Change, Global Food Security, and U.S. Food System concludes that climate change is likely to affect global, regional, and local food security. It will drive an overall increase in food prices, and disrupt food availability.

That’s a grim short-term outlook. But the USDA report also states that adaptation can make a positive difference. That’s where households and communities of all sizes and constellations need to place their attention and their energy. In this regard, CSA farms stand out as promising models for adaptation, models with a track record. CSA provides a pathway for people to come together and to pool their intelligences, their energies and their resources in a practical community venture that builds food security and resilience while helping to heal the land.

We must respond to our circumstances, or be overwhelmed. Locally and globally we absolutely require intelligent strategies to reduce our vulnerability, to build resilience, and to reckon with the increasing disruptions of climate change and geopolitical instability.

If the CSA model were to be realized in hundreds of thousands of permutations in diverse communities around the globe, it could make a consequential difference in a host of sane, safe, and superior ways. Awakened communities constellated around clean, organic CSA forms would profoundly enhance our resilience.

Photo by CV Harquail from Creative Commons

Journalist Steven McFadden is the author of 15 nonfiction books dealing with the land and our lives upon it. His most recent book is Awakening Community Intelligence: CSA Farms as 21st Century Cornerstones. Read all of Steven's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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