Winter 97 Comm Fd Sec News- 2nd try
Apparently my posted file attachment from yesterday was unreadable. My
apologies for my technological ineptitude. I am re-posting sections of the
newsletter as part of this e-mail document. To receive a hard copy, please
TRAINING WORKSHOPS: REGISTER NOW. SPACE IS LIMITED
The CFS Coalition is sponsoring seven hands-on interactive training workshops
on community food security and the Community Food Projects Program in
February and March. These full-day workshops will cover basic elements of
community food security including coalition building, community food
planning, needs assessments, and food system visioning.
The workshops will also include:
* Representatives from model community food security programs presenting
their innovative projects;
* USDA administrators of the Community Food Projects Program addressing how
to write a successful grant application;
* Robin Garr from World Hunger Year's Reinvesting in America program speaking
about replicating successful programs (OR and WI only);
The registration fee is $20 for CFSC members, $35 for non-members, which
includes optional one year membership dues no charge. Lunch and materials are
Dates and Places:
Feb. 28 Washington, DC
Mar. 6 Austin, TX
Mar. 8 Loveland, CO
Mar. 10 Portland, OR
Mar. 15 Hartford, CT
Mar. 18 East Troy, WI
Mar. 21 Los Angeles, CA
April 14 Los Angeles, Ca
1997 Community Food Projects Grants
The 1997 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Community Food Projects Program
is slated for release in late February or early to mid March, according to
USDA administrators. Applicants will have 60-90 days to complete their
proposals, as compared to the 30 day turn-around period last year. As with
1996, funding decisions are expected to be made in late summer to early fall.
The Community Food Projects Program was established through the 1996 Farm
Bill. It sets up a competitive grants program for non-profit organizations
for projects that:
* Meet the food needs of low-income people;
* Increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food
* Promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues.
USDA administrators have suggested that substantial revisions have been made
to improve this year's RFP, both in terms of content and user-friendliness.
With two and half million dollars available for grants this year, the program
should fund many more projects than in 1996, when 13 projects were awarded $1
million in grants. Competition for grants should continue to be keen this
The Community Food Security Coalition is offering a range of services and
publications to assist applicants in preparing their proposals.
To receive a copy of the Request for Proposals, please contact USDA CSREES
Proposal Services Branch at 202-401-5048. Those organizations that received
last year's RFP, do not need to call. USDA will automatically send you the
1997 application package as soon as it is available. You can also access the
RFP on the USDA web page, http://www.usda.gov
A Legacy of CSA and a Vision for World Peace
With the death of Robyn Van En, co-founder and director of CSA of North
America, the sustainable agriculture and food security community has lost a
cherished colleague. Robyn died early in the morning of January 8th of a
severe asthma attack - she was only 49.
Robyn was for many of us a tremendous source of inspiration, a visionary
thinker, enthusiastic mentor and loving friend. She was one of the world's
vital and beautiful souls, and will be missed. Luckily for us all, she has
left behind a rich legacy of work, vision and countless connections with
people all over the country and the globe.
A tireless advocate for Community Supported Agriculture, Robyn had an even
broader vision of creating systemic change and building life-affirming
alternatives in our local and global communities. In an interview with Peter
Mann of Why. Magazine just weeks before her death, Robyn said,
"Agriculture is the mother of our culture. Growing food is
the common thread through the world, in that everybody eats.
It connects everyone across all party lines, all ethnic and
That is also my vision. You know the bumper sticker that says: Visualize
world peace? I asked myself: what would world peace look like? If everyone
ate from a regional food supply, it would make a huge difference... IF every
place in the whole world had its own regional food supply and its own
regional food security, the world would be a very different place."
After establishing the first Community Supported Agriculture farm in the U.S.
in 1985 - and helping to coin the term CSA - Robyn traveled as a speaker,
organizer, educator and advocate for food and agriculture systems that bring
together concerns for the environment, the preservation of farmland and
farming, and access by all people of all income levels to high quality,
fresh, local food.
Robyn saw CSA as a vehicle for the transition from chemical agricultural
production to non-chemical farming, involving a growing number of farmers and
communities in an endless variety of relationships. Her vision was Community
Supported Agriculture and Agriculture Supported Communities - broad networks
of farmers and non-farmers working together, supporting each other and
building strong community-based economies.
More recently Robyn was helping to shape a vision for restaurant supported
agriculture, tapping the purchasing power and opinion-making status of the
restaurant and food service industry to strengthen regional agriculture.
As much inspiring work as Robyn achieved and left behind for us to continue,
my strongest memories of her will be of a caring and loving friend. Despite
the pressures Robyn always felt to reach more people and make more of a
difference, she never lost sight of the "little" things that truly matter.
Her grace under pressure, handwritten notes asking about my partner, and our
dog and the progress of jonquil bulb she gave me for my birthday, and her
beautiful smile - these are the pieces of Robyn that I cherish most.
I know that Robyn's sudden and early death has already spurred many -
including her own family - to pick up where Robyn left off and continue
building her vision. We must remember, however, the one crucial piece of
support Robyn didn't successfully build - support for herself, support for
her day to day ability to do her great work. For me, the meaning of Robyn's
death is clear - we must all do a better job of taking care of ourselves and
of each other. Our efforts must be founded on respect for ourselves, our
value to each other and the broader community, and our need to nurture each
other through our life's work.
New Challenges for CSAs: Beyond Yuppie Chow
Over the course of the past dozen years since the first community supported
agriculture (CSA) farm was started in the US, the CSA movement has revived
"community" as part of our food system in an exciting and promising way.
Consumers, mainly urban, commit to support a particular farm over an extended
period of time and in return obtain a weekly box of fresh produce . Through
these connections with dozens or even hundreds of local consumers, farms
become transformed into a valued community institution. Now firmly
established, with over 500 farms nationwide and growing by leaps and bounds,
the next challenge for CSA is to act upon the social consciousness of many of
its practitioners and reach out to lower income communities, where access to
fresh sustainably grown produce is largely non-existent. This article
examines this issue in depth, presenting a number of efforts from across the
country that create low-income CSAs, as well as the barriers these projects
Coordinator, CSA West
Some feel that the community supported agriculture (CSA) movement is the
domain of the wealthy. Kenneth Howe of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, "
Subscription farming fees aren't cheap. In fact, the high price has prompted
some to derisively call the service 'yuppie chow'."
My first reaction to this statement was, "Oh no, he's propagating a very
limited perception of Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are socially
just, and accessible to all who want to participate. Well, sort of.......
It is true that the majority of CSAs offer alternative payment plans,
donations, or other methods that make it possible to further spread the
bounty to those with limited income. Yet in a 1995 survey of CSA members in
California, 71% of shareholders reported an annual income of $40,000 or more.
And in the 1992 survey, only five out of fifty farms had people of color as
members, with each being less than 5% of the overall farm membership.
Why is that? Is it because the cost is prohibitive, or the payment structure
difficult for people with limited income? Or is it because low-income farmers
simply target their production to higher-income communities for want of
greater income security?
It's easy for some to call CSAs elitist or exclusive. Yet, social
justice-oriented action in the sustainable farming community would surely
predominate if there were economic security for the hard-working farmers and
Perhaps the answer can be found in our agricultural system that has become
increasingly devoid of people and community altogether. Industrial-scale
farming methods in concert with academia, government programs and chemical
corporations have by and large done well to separate food producers from food
consumers. In the process, all of us lose out, including the life in the
Nevertheless, across the country, seeds of change are sprouting in the CSA
movement, finding paths to incorporate social justice concerns while still
maintaining the farms' economic viability. Let's take a look at some of
Many CSAs subsidize a percentage of shares for low income community members.
Scholarship funds or direct gifts of shares to food pantries, churches, and
other charitable institutions abound. For example, in Santa Cruz, California,
the Homeless Garden Project, with $5,000 in grant funds, provided reduced
price shares for low income families. Full Belly Farm in northern California
solicits monetary donations from its members to purchase shares for a local
In New York City, Just Food Alliance, headed by Kathy Lawrence, spearheads a
number of efforts to bring CSA into the Big Apple. Just Food has lobbied
churches and synagogues to supplement their food pantries with shares of
fresh produce grown by local farms. They have worked with the Sixth Street
Community Center in the racially mixed Lower East Side to support a farmer in
New Jersey through innovative community development mechanisms such as
revolving loan funds and equity trust. They are looking to develop "sister
city programs," whereby shareholders in an upper income neighborhood, such as
the chic Upper East Side pay a little bit more for their share enabling
residents of a lower income community, such as East Harlem, to pay a rate in
accordance with their means.
As projects of community-based organizations, CSAs have been effective
vehicles to improve the food security of low income communities The Hartford
Food System's Holcomb Farm CSA makes at least half the produce grown at its
16 acre farm available to low income persons served by community
organizations. These groups purchase bulk-sized organizational shares for a
reduced fee, in turn partially subsidized by grants and donations.
Various food banks around the country (see CFS News Fall 1995) operate CSA
farms. In Hadley, MA, the Western Massachusetts Food Bank operates a CSA
whose membership covers the total farm budget while producing over 100,000
lbs of produce annually for donation through the food bank.
Many CSA farmers allow consumers to trade labor for veggies. The Rose Valley
Farm near Rochester, NY combines a variety of options such as sliding scale
shares paid in installments, work exchange opportunities and food stamp
acceptance. On other farms, help with newsletters, bookkeeping, weeding,
harvesting, or other farm chores is readily exchanged for produce.
In 1995, Southland Farmers' Market Association in conjunction with UCLA's
Pollution Prevention Center started the Market Basket Program, adapting the
CSA model to fit the needs of low income urbanites through a farmers' market
located in South Los Angeles. Every Saturday, Southland staff purchases
produce from six farmers at the Gardena Farmers' Market at 15% below market
price, and assembles it into boxes of varied items. A week before the market,
consumers reserve a box, paying from $7 to $13, according to their means. On
Saturday, they pick up the boxes at various drop-off points. The program
focuses on selling boxes through community organizations, such as child care
centers, soup kitchens, social service agencies, WIC clinics, PTAs, and
churches as it provides greater program stability. Southland is currently
expanding the program to a second site.
The Community Alliance with Family Farmers' CSA West Project has recently
begun to work with two community-based organizations to develop CSA projects
by and for low income communities of color. In Salinas, CA at the Rural
Development Center Maria Inez Catalan operates perhaps the only Latina-run
CSA in the country. She hopes that this year more of the Latino community
around Salinas will be interested in joining last year's group of
predominantly affluent shareholders. To encourage them she produces bilingual
outreach materials, and grows a variety of ethnic crops such as cilantro and
nopales (cactus), as well as corn, tomatoes, and peppers.
Meanwhile, a few hours drive away in the small town of Livingston in the San
Joaquin Valley, the Casa de la Dignidad, an outreach program with such
services as hot meals and a food bank is undertaking a CSA farm with the
Hmong and Mixteco (Lao and Mexican indigenous) farmworker residents. Pastor
William Ruth notes, "To provide fresh produce that is locally grown to people
in our area is something that we believe is sorely needed. At Casa, we are
looking for ways to help empower those that are locked out of the money
CSA famers and advocates point out substantial barriers to expanding CSAs in
low income communities. Kathy Lawrence admits that it will be very difficult
economically to develop CSAs for exclusively low income communities in New
York City. Perhaps the two primary challenges are:
* Making the costs and payment plans affordable to the community, while
sufficiently meeting the true costs of production for the farmers;
* Planning and producing crops that reflect both the consumers' dietary
habits and the farmers' and land's capacities.
In addition to these programmatic obstacles, the ability of CSAs to accept
food stamps remains in question. USDA policy has prohibited CSAs from
accepting food stamps due to the delay between spending the food stamps and
receiving the food as well as the "speculative" nature of CSAs, in which a
farm does not sell food directly, but "a chance to receive food " ( See Food
Stamps and CSAs, page ___).
So, when we characterize the CSA movement as merely as an economic
relationship for yuppies, we are ultimately missing the point. CSAs are a
vital component in the redirection of the behemoth global food system toward
a community-based system, with direct connections between producers and
consumers, in which health and equity are priorities. Let's continue to
question CSA and other "alternative" efforts, so as to arrive at answers that
will truly sustain us over the long haul. Ultimately, we all will gain as we
strengthen our communities through farming and gardening. Jim Leap, farm
manager at the University of California-Santa Cruz Farm and Garden
Apprenticeship Program says, " We can examine the CSA concept from any number
of angles-- from my perspective, it is nothing short of a revolution in the
way we grow, distribute, and eat food."
This article is dedicated to Robyn Van En, who recently passed away from an
asthma attack. Robyn will be remembered for her pioneering work with and
promotion of the CSA model, that has helped bring many thousands of people
into closer relationship with their food source. Thank you Robyn!
Our ultimate end must be the creation of the beloved community.
-Martin Luther King Jr
The Food Stamp Dilemma
Farmers markets do it a lot. Farmstands too. Even market gardens. Yet CSA
farms can't. Or maybe they can.
"It" is accept food stamps.
Official USDA policy spelled out in a "Policy memo" dated August 25, 1994
states that CSA farms are ineligible to take food stamps, because "recipients
would be using their food stamps to speculate on a crop.... in the case of
crop failure, there would be no delivery of food. Thus the firm (CSA farm)
does not sell food directly, but rather a chance to receive food."
One farm in Kalamazoo, MI was refused the ability to take stamps in 1993.
Others may have been (Let us know if your farm was deemed ineligible).
Nevertheless, advocates note that many CSA farms are indeed allowed to take
food stamps legally. The late Robyn Van En of CSA North America wrote in a
November 1996 memo, "Technically CSA is a variation on the basic market
garden and as market gardens are eligible to receive food stamps and they are
something that the Department (USDA) is familiar with. I suggest you apply as
a market garden. Skip the education for the time being and be a regular farm
on the books..."
Whether some CSAs somewhere in the U.S. may squeak by and get certified for
food stamps is irrelevant from a policy perspective. The lack of a clear
federal policy around this issue, not to mention the threat of withdrawal of
eligibility, hampers grassroots efforts to provide low income communities
with access to the affordable and nutritious produce that CSAs provide.
CFS Coalition Steering Committee member Zy Weinberg is spearheading an effort
to convince USDA to overturn their previous ruling, and formally allow CSAs
as a "normal channel of trade" for food stamps. He notes that the 1994 ruling
is inconsistent with a variety of USDA policies and programs, such as the
5-A-Day program, which encourages greater consumption of fruits and
vegetables; the Farmers' Market Task Force which promotes direct marketing
initiatives; and the Community Food Projects Program, which funds the
creation of CSAs in low income communities.
We will need to build a strong coalition to convince USDA to reverse this
ruling. To receive a copy of the letter requesting this policy change as well
as to endorse this effort, contact Zy Weinberg at 202-371-1840,