Community Supported Agriculture

MOTHER EARTH NEWS gardeners use a radical new concept in farming and food production concept imported from Switzerland known as Community Supported Agriculture.

| November/December 1988

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    Community Supported Agriculture chart of food production.
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    The CSA garden provides bushels of glistening green peppers.

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Two former MOTHER EARTH NEWS gardeners are breaking ground on a radical new concept in farming called Community Supported Agriculture. (See the food production chart in the image gallery.)

Community Supported Agriculture

"DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR Farmer is tonight?"

Rod Shouldice, head of a bio-dynamic community in Kimberton, Pennsylvania, asks the question—a query first amusing, then haunting. "Our very existence depends upon what we eat," he continues. "Somebody out there is growing the substance of our physical bodies. Are they dumping all kinds of toxic stuff on what is ultimately going to be us?"

Should ice's remarks describe a problem common to many conscientious consumers: How can a person control the quality of the produce that he or she eats? But look at the original question from a grower's point of view, and it becomes, "Do I know where my buyer is tonight?"

Finding a profitable market for crops has become so difficult that many American farmers have a hard time making ends come within sight of meeting. Former MOTHER EARTH NEWS gardeners Kerry and Barbara Sullivan know that problem well. In 1983 the Sullivans left MOTHER to study bio-dynamics (a method of organic agriculture originated by Austrian Rudolf Steiner that combines spiritual and practical teachings) at Emerson College in England.

Once they returned to the States in '86, they faced the challenge of converting their hard-earned expertise into hard income. The Sullivans weren't sure what to do. All the successful market gardeners they knew were selling lettuces and gourmet vegetables to fancy restaurants, but Barb and Kerry didn't want to go that route. "We wanted to grow real food for real people," Barb states. "Besides, we didn't feel we could afford to spend half our time trying to market what we grew." Neither Should ice nor the Sullivans found quick answers.

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