Pulling back from CSA
Well, after seven years of trying to get an involved core group and
fully-functional CSA started here at my farm near New York State's #3
tourist destination, I'm taking a year off.
I am putting my energy into my full-time temporary off-farm job and
becoming a permanent employee there or elsewhere, fixing up the house and
taming the perennial gardens so that the place is in saleable condition
rather than sagging because I've been out pulling weeds instead of mending
and painting trim, and doing some serious traveling and investigation of
other places to live. I am seriously leaning toward selling the farm and
relocating someplace where mindsets are a teeny bit more slanted toward
community -- I'm about equally attracted at this point to Ithaca, NY (about
40 miles away) and Vancouver, BC or maybe Seattle, WA.
I'm not quitting, just pulling back and not making any more big recruiting
efforts. I will accept 10 CSA participants for next year. Minimum
financial commitment is $300 for the year, minimum time commitment is
attendance at eight two-hour planting and weeding parties. There are
almost 200,000 people within twenty miles of me and I am the only organic
farm in that area -- think I can find 10 who will make those commitments?
Of my fifteen members for this year, ten signed up for working shares. Not
one of them ever showed up to work. The minimum financial commitment was
supposed to be $100, seven paid half and promised to pay the other half
within 30 days. Next week is the final $6.25 delivery on the $50 credit;
not one of them ever sent that other check despite two friendly reminders
so they're not getting any more produce once their credit is used up.
People around here -- and not just around here, I know, it's a National
Epidemic -- just are addicted to convenience and don't want to do anything
for themselves any more. The one remaining U-pick farm in our area is
going under, this year he did less than 20% as much planting as he has in
previous years. He's selling everything now to the processing plant at 25%
of what he got from the U-pick folks.
My CSA folks have been pushing and complaining since the beginning that
they want me to deliver the stuff to their door as well as grow it without
any help -- and not pay anything for the labor or the delivery. Cooking it
for them and delivering at mealtime would be a plus. I guess I could chew
it for them, too. I'm "too far out" -- a whole five miles from town.
I still think that I've been doing the right thing, just maybe in the wrong
place and certainly with the wrong group of people. So I'm backing off
before I become as bitter and resentful as every single one of the old
farmers I know. When I asked one of them recently why he hasn't gone to
IPM and transitioned to organics he actually replied "So what if the stuff
poisons 'em [the people buying his crops] -- they haven't cared that I'm
working until I'm sick in all kinds of weather and going out of business
and losing my home because they won't pay a fair price for what I grow."
Chills went up and down my spine at his bitter and heartbroken words. I
will certainly quit before I get to that point -- but I sure know exactly
how he feels.
Dori Green: Writer, Farmer, Facilitator
Ash Grove Community Farm & Center for Sustainable Living
(presently closed for reconstruction)