The Extreme Sport of Running a CSA

| 5/10/2012 9:42:55 AM

Tags: organic, gardening, CSA, Cam Mather,

Over the years I have been reading about CSAs.  “Community Supported Agriculture” or CSAs deliver a basket of produce to people once a week during the growing season, so the members share in the harvest. They take the ups with the downs.

Now as I reach back into the recesses of my brain, and think of what I’ve read about CSAs and the people who run them, I remember that every CSA I’ve ever heard about has been run by young people. They are generally about 25 years old and what they lack in growing experience they make up for in enthusiasm and youthful energy. Many of the CSAs have been run by groups of people, growing together. This means there are many hands to share the work. I have this image of a photo of a CSA with 4 principal owners; 2 young men, 2 young women, with lots of piercings, dreadlocks, and those cool multicolored hats like you see in Bogota.

Which brings me to the idea of me starting a CSA at the ripe old age of 52. No really, what am I thinking? I don’t even own a tractor. While Michelle is always an integral part of everything we do, she is still focused on running Aztext Press, shipping books, doing web work (i.e. she posts all this stuff) etc., so the majority of the gardening responsibility falls on me. I’ve always been the vegetable gardener, with Michelle focusing on flowers.

So now I’ve committed to growing enough food to make 12 local families happy. I’ve grown food for 35 years, but this will be the first year when there really is pressure. I’ve always been marvelously talented at giving my produce away for free. It’s a skill I have. And last year after a morning selling at our stand in town, I often ran around delivering the leftovers to our friends, for free. Nothing lost other than the time I’d invested. As it was, the stand went very well which inspired me to go to the CSA format this year.

Cam's Award Winning Veggies

But really, it’s quite terrifying. I’ve always experienced pressure in earning an income, but this year is different. It’s personal. These are people I know. They are friends. And neighbors. And I do NOT want them pissed off at me.

I think of what many 50-year-olds do during their mid-life crisis. Many buy a motorcycle and pretend they are free spirits, but 2 (or 3) wheels simply don’t fool anyone. Neither does the mandatory black leather gear and grey goatee. Sorry. You aren’t a member of a biker gang; you’re just a bunch of lawyers and accountants out for cheeseburgers on bikes that get the same gas mileage as my Honda Civic.

5/11/2012 12:20:25 PM

I know exactly what you mean Cam! This year I am starting up my own CSA and it does indeed feel very much like a marathon. At times there is panic, and the wonder of why I am doing this to myself--other times there is pride and inspiration. I tend to cling to the moments of inspiration to get me through those moments of shear panic; I know I can do this and it will all work out. Thanks for a great post--it's nice to know that there's someone else out there going through the same thing I am.

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