Sponsoring a Community, Agriculturally

It seems oddly apropos that, right after I resurrect my old book review of Reclaiming the Commons, we attended an informational meeting for the CSA that we joined.

But I got ten minutes into the meeting, and wound up writing bits of this post in my head. So I write more.

The basic idea behind a CSA, if you’re not familiar with it, is that one of the hard parts of farming is selling the stuff, so if one can get subscribers who commit to buying a share of the week’s produce, well, that’s much more sustainable than hoping that someone shows up at the market stall before the produce goes all weird. A lot of CSAs are organised around ideas of local, often organic production, partly because demand for that kind of food is rising so there’s a handy niche to exploit.

In general, for people who are looking to bring some practical ma’at into their diet and can afford the buy-in, I’d recommend looking for a CSA. It fulfills all kinds of warm fuzzies: local food, seasonal food, organic food, supporting the local community and local economy in a cooperative fashion, variety of vegetables… Certainly, my family’s food habits have broadened notably over the years due to more than a few encounters that started out, “… so what the heck is this and how do I cook it?” I mean, garlic scapes. Garlic scapes are kind of awesome, but we would never have known….

So anyway, the presentation for the CSA began with a discussion of their partner, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project. Which is another excellent example of ma’at in action: this is an organisation that works with primarily refugee or other immigrant populations, but also locals, to help them establish small farms. It includes such useful things as a business curriculum to establish a financial plan (which is something that I think is really important when trying to promote small businesses) and land that can be rented for farm space in order to build and test skills and start to develop a sustainable output. They then, once people run out of short-term land rentals through the training program, try to connect people with potential farmland – up to and including letting them rent people’s backyards, corners of church land, and other odds and ends of arable terrain.

Of course, many of these farms are tiny – the first year graduates of the program get a quarter acre of training land available to them, I think – and the resulting output isn’t always huge. Which means that the World PEAS Cooperative serves to gather up these crops and sell them for these small farmers. Primarily through the CSA.

And if that wasn’t enough awesome “ma’at is the force that gathers people together into communities”, they also allow people to sponsor shares to go to low-income families – many of whom would not have the opportunity to have fresh vegetables easily, and also would not have some of the crops from their native cuisines available to them otherwise. And they provide produce to elder homes in the company of Meals On Wheels.

I am really amazingly happy with this CSA, even though I’m expecting to crack open a box someday and ask, “Okay, how do you properly prepare a bitter melon?” (There was a photo of one in the Powerpoint we watched. When question time came around we asked what the heck it was.)

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