Confession: I joined a CSA, not as a radical political act, but because I want good, fresh food and I want to know my farm and farmers. The farm is about six or seven miles from where I live and they host regular work parties, provide updates on the crops, and attend the local growers markets. This particular CSA
use[s] only all-natural and chemical-free methods that integrate a long-range vision of land stewardship founded on soil fertility. Farming practices include cover cropping, composting, crop rotation, companion planting, crop diversification, seed saving, season extension, soil testing, and appropriate use of all-natural amendments. [emphasis mine — this could include any number of things, and is one of the things I intend to quiz them more fully about when I’m there in person]
Notice that no where in this statement is the word “organic.” Organic certification is a long & expensive process — especially if the land was previously used for conventional farming or industry. I’ve been to their farm stand and quizzed them, albeit mildly, about their methods. I have the opportunity (and will soon take them up on it) to go to their farm and see their practices — to, in fact, participate in the growing of my foodstuffs. Every week, I will get a box a fresh, local, in season produce plus a “special surprise,” such as a small jar of pesto or a sampling from a low-yield crop. In other words, I’m not supporting industrial agriculture. I’m not supporting the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides. I’m not supporting agriculture that’s traveling a long way. I’m opting, instead, to support a local business, to keep money in my community, to “vote with my fork” and force myself to get creative in the kitchen again. I’m supporting a local farm, in part because I want to support community agriculture, and in this case I was pushed to actually buy into the CSA because of my research on urban farming (in general) and the Gill Tract (in particular).
Joining a CSA is something I’ve wanted to do for a while — but I’ve always felt so transient (but I won’t be here through the season, or through the whole season, or even through most of the season; I don’t know what’s coming next; I don’t know who I’d split it with — but I can’t afford it). This time, I decided to say “screw it.” I probably won’t be here through their season, which ends in mid-October, but I can find someone to take my CSA-share over — and I know I’m in a position to better afford that investment than several of my friends. I can decide to put my money where my mouth is and to invest more in the health of my body, my local economy, and the soil.
How then, is this a radical political act? It’s not — I’m certainly not chaining myself to a tree or a home, nor am I slashing tires or jackhammering roads. People have been joining CSAs for years and it’s a movement that continues to grow supporters. But, it is a way to undermine the system that seems too big to undermine. I’m simply opting out (at least for the most part) of all the things I mentioned earlier. I’m refusing to support them and redirecting my support elsewhere. If I combine that with consciousness-raising acts (i.e. – joining the growing number of people who actively raise awareness about GMOs and the horrors of factory farms), and if I continue to write about the experience then I’m doing everything big ag hates: I’m standing against them, and with small farmers. And perhaps more importantly, I’m taking into consideration the “true cost” of farming and eating — plus I’ll probably get to meet some of my neighbors.