I got off the phone with one of my favorite Victory Gardeners the other day and said “Pomposity!” My conversation with him made me realize I had assumed everyone knew what I meant when I wrote about Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) in a previous post. He said “I’m not sure I’d like that other type of community garden you’ve been writing about. It sounds like communism.”
I must have sounded like a one-trick parrot. “ CSA! CSA! CSA!”
Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) is a poor name for the rich practice of investing in local food and farms. Before I joined a CSA, it sounded strange and uncomfortable to me too. It didn’t make sense, like some kind of elaborate tax scheme or boondoggle. Maybe it did sound a little like communism. I could see myself ending up with 3 shriveled beets and a lettuce leaf at the end of the summer.
In an effort to better explain the concept from my own personal experience, here’s a little story I made up:
Let’s say that Old MacDonald has a small family farm (CS—CS– Aay). The farm is his business and it has some high costs at the beginning of the year because he needs to invest in good seeds, compost, and equipment repairs. He could go to the bank and take out a loan, but that is not how Old MacDonald rolls. So how is he going to get the $5,000 he needs to get started?
Old MacDonald has some friends (CS—CS– Aay). He tells his friends he is going to sell “shares” of his future farm produce. He offers these shares at the price of $250 each and 20 of his friends buy one. Now, Old MacDonald has money to buy his seeds and fix the flat tire on his tractor.
He plants a variety of crops, installs a drip irrigation system to keep things evenly watered, and waits for the increase.
In about 8 weeks, Old MacDonald has some radishes, lettuce, and spinach and he tells his 20 friends that their investment is now paying a dividend. “Please stop by the farm and pick up some radishes, lettuce, and spinach, my good and supportive friends.” They do.
The growing season continues and he has more and more dividends for his friends who believed in Old MacDonald’s Farm. Old MacDonald also has extra produce he can sell to new friends at the local Farmer’s Market. He sells lettuce to local restaurants. His supportive friends (old and new) are able to eat fresh, local food from Old MacDonald’s farm for almost 20 weeks.
Old MacDonald is a bit of a rebel; he does not call his farming scheme CSA. He calls it “FSA” because he thinks “Friends Supporting Agriculture” makes more sense. He appreciates the faith his friends put in him and his family farm and he repays it with fresh, healthy food.
Old MacDonald’s farm is successful in a small, sustainable way. Willie Nelson does not need to come to Old MacDonald’s farm and stage a concert to help keep the farm going. Why not? Because Old MacDonald’s friends bought a share in his farm and those shares paid a dividend.
This year, I’m investing in Wild Miller Farms CSA on the Randall Road in Lee. Joel and Annalisa Miller run their CSA in what is called the “market style” which means they bring their produce “to market” at local venues. If I like what they bring (and I do because they grow delicious spinach and kale, among other things) I take just what I want, sort of like in the supermarket. I can talk to them about the things they’re growing and how they grow it. They keep track of what I take. If I can’t make it to the market, they have a “well house” on their farm and I am welcome to stop in, take what I like, and record it in the CSA book. I can poke around their farm, too, and get my boots all muddy. I like being their farm friend and maybe I will suggest they start calling it FSA.
For the record, here is my friend Samantha Van Hopper’s definition of “pomposity:”
“Pomposity is a practice wherein the pompous one forgets that the average person cannot read minds. Ms. Pomposity assumes that everyone knows what she is talking about. Often, pomposity is perceived as constant soap box standing or being a broken record about various and sundry topics. In Texas, pomposity is translated into the expression ‘big hat, no cattle.’”
Please forgive my pomposity.
Does CSA make sense now?