The local food movement – whether centered in a CSA, a co-op or a farmers market – is no fad or whim, but is driven by acutely real economic, environmental and health concerns. For a host of compelling reasons, there is a growing understanding that good food and a clean, non-toxic environment are foundational, and must be in a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.
Because CSA possesses so many inherently beneficial dimensions in a time of troubling circumstances, I continue to regard CSA as a way of building a clean, stable agrarian foundation for the fast emerging high-tech digital-wave culture. The digital culture can in reciprocity connect, network and sustain the agrarian initiatives which give it roots. In this regard the element of community is just as important as the practical and economic arrangements that take place in a CSA.
The dynamic of farmers and consumers in free will association via community farms creates the potential for the kind of phenomenon that philosopher Rudolf Steiner termed “social intelligence.” In the particular case of CSA, that construct naturally extends to include economic and environmental intelligence as well.
Rather than an agriculture supported by government subsidies, private profits, or martyrs to the cause, CSA pioneers envisioned organizational forms that provide direct, free will support for farm and farmers from the people who share in the harvest they have made possible. Much more needs to happen on that front now.
That clean, sustainable farms flourish must be the concern of everyone, not just the human beings working as farmers. The core CSA idea is not a marketing scheme, but for the community to support the whole farm, not just to be occasional consumers buying boxes of carrots, lettuce, strawberries and squash. When CSA shareholders support the whole farm, the farm is in better position to reciprocate with support for the community.
The community supports the farm out of intelligent recognition of what is happening in our world and out of free will choices to associate; the farm supports the community out of the bounty of the land.
Writing in the journal Biodynamics, Jeff Poppen once observed that CSA has its roots in the recognition of the fundamental difference between growing something and selling something. "When a group of people cover the farm’s annual budget, as in CSA,” Poppen wrote, “the farmer is able to put his or her attention into developing the farm’s unique possibilities..."
The core ideas of CSA – the sparks that have defined it and made it so immediately understandable and appealing for people – are about supporting a whole farm, and having the whole farm support and nourish the web of people who support it. Ultimately, this is what makes a CSA a CSA.
By supporting the whole farm rather than just buying some food the farm has produced, shareholders are more fully invested and involved. They come to know the full scope of what their investment and participation are accomplishing.
Photo by curiouslee, Creative Commons
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