Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Help Needed - Support a Farmer in Trouble - a follow up

I received a comment on my blog entry about a farmer in need of support which included specific names and I've elected not to post this comment because of that, as I really don't want to become a forum for airing out individual situations. But, I will say that this person stated part of the problem was that there were no shares to pick up and there were more details I was perhaps not informed of about the situation.

Let me say, re-stating as I have many times whenever I speak about CSA, that Community Supported Agriculture is not the purchasing of food. It is the financial supporting of a farmer's endeavors of farming. And, in doing so, that you, (hopefully), develop a community type relationship with your farmer, (and the other supporters of the farm) over a long period of time, and that through those relationships, you as a community are able to endure and overcome bad times as well as celebrate together in the good times of the farm. Perhaps like many things in the US, the concept has become commercialized and good intenders trying to help encourage people to join up in support of small farmers over-emphasise the potential benefits and downplay the risks, but, it should be pretty much understood commonly that farming doesn't come with any risk-free guarentees - any more than investing in any other company does. Just read the news today. Who ever would have thought our auto industry investors would have to take a 50% loss in their investments!?

The "pay off" if you will, of that support, is much more than just sharing in the food harvest - the fruits of very hard work on the part of the farmer - but in the being a part of the farm, if you so choose to participate and become involved beyond your picking up of any harvest, and the knowing that you are helping support and perpetuate a small, local farm - and all of the very positive attributes associated with that. There are too many to mention!

When we trivialize a farmer's efforts solely by whether or not nature cooperated with them in the production of a bountiful crop a particular season, we are selling short the total experience.

As supporters, you certainly have the option of not supporting a particular farmer in the future, but to say that because there wasn't any fruit from the labors of that farmer for some reason they have no control over, that someone's support, financial or otherwise, (such as volunteered hours), should be returned, is going quite against the spirit of what CSA is all about. Unless one can prove negligence or purposeful destruction of an otherwise healthy and productive harvest by the farmer and within their realm of control; participating in the sharing of the very real risks of farming is largely what CSA was introduced to our country for; many people joining together to spread out the losses of a risk, when it occurs. Because farming will incur losses, crop failure, disappointments; welcome to farming.

But farmers who have CSA as part or all of their capital base, need to know they have the support of their CSA members even when the crops don't cooperate with their efforts to grow them. Otherwise, these farmers may not be able to survive, as we've seen so many a farmer go under in the past due to many factors that have changed the agricultural horizon.

CSA perhaps isn’t the best way for everyone to support a local farm. Volunteering time may be better if a financial commitment means cutting into the family budget in ways that can’t be afforded if the harvest results in less than expected amounts and more food is needed to supplement the dinner table by going to the grocery store. However, let us be grateful we can still go to a grocery store, in some cases, and find other local produce. Many had few other options when they could only afford to rely solely on their farm’s harvest to feed their families. Dependence on the community’s farm is also what CSA was meant to remind us of. We are very spoiled nowadays with “food” in every store on every corner.

I'm very sorry you and your farmer have apparently had a poor season; this is truly heartbreaking for your farmer if you didn't know that. As farmers, we all share in the sadness of our colleagues’ failures, and the joys of their successes. All of the countless hours of planning, working the soil, nurturing the plants, etc, appear to be for very little benefit when isolated to just a single season’s harvest, or lack thereof. When all of this work ends up without a bountiful harvest, your farmers have lost much more than just a few hundred dollars – they’ve lost many months of their lives and endless amounts of energy put into that crop. There aren’t any ways to “do-over” a season eaten by insects, dried up by winds, or killed by disease. Many farmers lose their equipment, land and lives when their season fails. This too, is why CSA is so important to the survival of the small farmer. I only wish it had been part of the equation for so many who gave all for generations past, who lost so much due to circumstances beyond their control, trying to feed the people of their communities, and give their families a decent life in the process.

We at Eden’s Garden also experienced a lean season this fall, due to drought related complications. And, we also had a few supporters who decided that our CSA was not right for them and chose not to fulfill the remaining installments of their annual commitment to the farm. Some perhaps that didn't realize they were accepting the risks of not recieving ample produce each week to give them a comfortable feeling of value for their investment. Fortunately, the overwhelming support of the remaining members, as well as many others eager to join us in this new farm, has allowed me to continue farming and even expand and jump into it full time. I can’t tell you how humbling of an experience this is – or how rewarding it is to see the faces of those members as they pick up the food that many of them helped plant, weed and harvest.

While, there are many ways to support local agriculture and while CSA is among the riskiest, it is also, in the opinion of many, the most rewarding because it is the closest to actually being part of the farm as it sows, grows, reaps and evolves into the community a productive relationship that benefits in many ways beyond the obvious results to those eating healthier, locally grown, organic food.

I hope our commenter finds a more comfortable way to express their support of local agriculture. And I would recommend the book "Sharing the Harvest" by Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En to anyone considering supporting a local farm through CSA.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just Checking In!

Wow! I'm happy to report that we have planted about 900 tomato plants! They got in right before the rains started and so they are now getting a good, long drink!

As soon as the soil will take it, I'll begin getting the peppers and squash starts in, too. Direct seeding of other squash, melons, cucumbers, wax beans and some later starting peppers and tomatoes for fall will be underway as well. I'm even going to try growing some "pop corn"!

I've been getting responses from people who are interested in buying out the remaining portion of the first year's share commitments from those who chose not to finish out the first year. I am encouraging, actually requiring, they come out to the farm to meet me and see our project. Afterall, before we invest in something, it makes sense to see it first and I want everyone to have that opportunity.

I am also happy to report we have 2 new work share members! This time of year it is critical I get full help from our work shares when at all possible. Planting needs to get in and sometimes the weather is not always cooperative. If you want to volunteer an hour or so, please, don't hesitate to call me. I've not "required" work as part of this farm's CSA commitment, but it is sure appreciated, especially during heavy planting and heavy harvest times. Experience is not required!

I hope your home gardens are all doing well and that you remember to spray your tomato plants with a corn meal tea after all of this rain to help prevent blight from setting in. I know it helped last year when I did it every time it rained. The last time it rained and I forgot - blight! So, I really do think the corn meal teas helped stave it off.

Hope to see you at Market Day this weekend. I'll be talking to Gene out at his farm in east Texas soon to see if he has a surplus or not. I think the lettuce, broccoli and maybe some of the spinach and eventually the remaining beets will have a bit of life to them, but most likely will only be part of a swap basket in future weeks when we begin to harvest our spring garden, as the fall leftovers were when we began to pull our winter harvest in. We'll see. It is not unusual for there to be some overlap from season to season on a few things - again, another reason for the annual commitment and not a seasonal one.

Take care and let Judi from JuHa know if you want to pre-order from her. I'll post her newest list on the website, and Jeani is doing a bit of baking if you want to get some of her yummy breads!

Till then, take care and stay dry!

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Help Needed - Support a Farmer in Trouble

Recently, one of my colleagues who has CSA as part of her farm's make up, made some other farmers and I aware of a situation that she needs some support with.

Apparently, one of her former farm supporters paid her normal CSA installment to the farm, but then went out of town for several months and didn't pick up her food. This person now is requesting a cash refund for the unclaimed shares. Well, we all know that the food keeps growing, the expenses keep coming and this is not a co-op, but the supporting of a farmer and her land.

My friend has a court date - yes, the former member is asking for her money back legally - in May. If you are near Frisco and can come help show some support May 5th, please get in touch with me and let's help stand up with her and show the judge we support small farmers and what CSA really stands for. Community Supported Agriculture.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Eating Local in Dallas

Wow, there were over 100 new people on the list waiting to hear from me about our farm! Dallas - I think you are really starting to GET IT about local food! That is great! I'll be setting up appointments for potential new CSA members to come visit the farm soon. We will only be filling in those shares that were abandoned before the year's end. I think 25-28 is a nice number of shares to manage and grow for and it makes for a nice "community" size, too.

I'll plant a bit extra this season as more people are looking for produce at market day and of course left over food from unclaimed shares are putting some smiles on the faces of a few "hungry families". I have a few specific items requested by Chef Gilbert that I'll be planting, including some of the potatoes that are in the ground. Eden's community gardens' Swiss Chard has been a big hit with Chef, too! The monies raised will help pay for some new "drip bucket" irrigation systems I am hoping to get soon. This will get us off of "city" water and on rain water in our community gardens.

The magazine Edible DFW is in town, more local chefs are tuning into local farms and there are way more mini-farmer's markets than the farmers can keep up with! What a good problem to have I guess. The awareness level is growing fast. I hope this encourages more people to make better food choices. I want to introduce some of you who are willing to be profiled as this farm's supporters in upcoming articles I will be writing. You all are very special folks and are what it takes in this country to help turn around our messed up food system. Many a small farm couldn't do it without CSA backing them.

If you or someone you know are interested in farming, even on a small scale, get in touch with TOFGA. It doesn't take a huge piece of land to grow food and there are many people like you willing to help support small farms via CSA. There are many people who want to eat organic food, and many more who really NEED to eat it because of current health issues. We all SHOULD eat local, organically grown food for our own good, but it is for those who's health is already compromised that I really wish more was available for. We're working on it at TOFGA with workshops and our annual conference where we encourage and teach folks just like me and you to get their hands in the dirt.

The new driving group location at Green Spot is working very out well it seems. I have even had a few who used to come to the farm that are taking advantage of this. New members will pay $50 a year for the "delivery" of their shares. We'll look at other locations perhaps for the future if our members' addresses merit. There is a "north" group that has joined together informally and they take turns picking up at the drop point.

Well, I am excited to tell you that I found a wonderful deal on a small used garden tractor and brush hog that I can use for keeping the pasture mowed. It is being fitted with a very useful implement for the farm, too. This should help me tremendously! I know our work shares and volunteers all have other lives to lead but ol' JD, yeah, I named it, he will be here full time with me. : ) Not only does this mean we shouldn't have to hoe our rows by hand in the future, it will help us with weeding, too! Maybe we'll even be able to have "hay" rides this fall....anyone up for riding in the 4th of July parade here in Balch Springs?

Well, our winter crops are coming to an end as the heat is on, big time. We'll keep the lettuce in the ground as well as the beets until they are all done growing, but pretty much everything else will be coming out this weekend. So, we should have a pretty big harvest again - hope you all know what to do with cabbage and radicchio. I'll see if Chef Gilbert has any ideas.

Speaking of Chef Gilbert and his restaurant, Lazare - Chef wants to plan a farm picnic out here at Eden's this summer for his staff and Eden's CSA members. Sounds like a great time and some great food. We'll see when it looks like a good variety of food will be available for harvest and plan around that date. Some of his staff came out and pitched in hilling up potatoes and doing some weeding this past Tuesday. I think they were all happy to get back to their restaurant jobs!

Sous Chef Ryan and co-worker Bryan work the potatoes.

Well gang, it looks like rain but I think it will hold off until Sunday night. That is good news as it means I can get the rows ready and get some things in the ground beforehand. If you want to come out Sunday morning to help plant, let me know - plus, we need to make sure the rows are ready so be sure to call before you come in case we aren't ready.

Until then - see you tomorrow for our pick up. Don't forget your cotton bags.

Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Monday, April 13, 2009

From a Member's Perspective

Ya'll are in for a real treat. Watch this short video about a CSA member up in Penn. I was laughing, tearing and smiling - I think you will be, too.


Eat Your Food - Naturally!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

There is a new mag around that one of our farmer friends made me aware of. Now, I've only seen a few of the articles so far, but, so far, so good. Check it out.


Also, a web site that often has interesting topics on their forums and a podcast is Metro Farm Radio.

The food is growing back kind of slow right now, with the rain we needed so badly, but we're still looking pretty good. If we'd have stayed cool, the mizuna wouldn't have bolted, but there isn't any way to keep that from happening when it is in the 80's in February! The heirloom lettuces are still pretty and growing back pretty well from the harvest as is the broccoli coming on finally, too. I even saw a few heads of cauliflower out there - and I thought that was a lost cause! So, we'll keep picking.

Soon I'll be able to get the warmer season things in the ground. I've always been taught to wait till the ground warms up consistently so you reduce the risk of fungus and other pest issues. Plus, many seeds won't germinate anyway and you risk losing them to a heavy rain or fungi as they rot away waiting for the soil to wake them up.

We have some tomato plants that are ready to go and have been growing awhile, as well as some younger starts coming in next week. Then, we'll sow some seeds and hopefully spread out the harvest of maters on until the heat starts to split them.

I've got melon seeds, squash and zucchini seeds, wax bean seeds and a few other things, too. I'm having fun and can't wait to really be out there watching it all grow!

For those of you who may not have heard, I have elected to stay home and work from the farm now. The garden shop, which is more of a ministry to teach folks how to grow their own food and host market days, is open a few days a week starting this weekend.

If you want to come visit the farm with a school group or on your own, just get in touch with me and we'll arrange for a mini tour. This is something I want to offer to local schools on a more formal basis eventually. Working on doing something in conjunction with Chef Gilbert of LAZARE in Dallas to teach a cooking class, too. (Kids need to learn how to do more than open a can and pop it in the microwave...)

Go see our new friends at LAZARE and tell them you're a supporter of the farm. I suggest most of the menu, but try the chicken arugula flat bread, the Dominion Farm 1/2 chicken, and the honey yogurt mousse for desert! We are planning for a private picnic for the staff and our CSA members once the weather warms up. Watch for plans....

Ya'll hold on to your hats - this wind is unreal!

Chef Gilbert is so excited about Eden's growing potatoes for him, he's
already got us on the market picks board! Click on the pic above and read it.


Eat Your Food - Naturally!