Jim at Hunters' Greens has a lot going on (both in the field and in his head) this time of year. And I for one am always glad to be a recipient of his mullings and musings. Here's a message from Jim regarding our local CSAs, CSA customers, and some thoughts on what you can do to directly support your CSA farmer or farmerette.
CSA shareholders of Clark County, your farmers may require your assistance. I address this message not just to my own CSA shareholders, but to the larger community of "supporters of
By way of a caveat, I have to admit that I have been neglecting my relationships with my fellow CSA farmers for the last year or two, so check with your farmers to check the relevancy of my remarks to their particular situation.
Here's the deal. The word on the wire is that CSA farmers are having trouble filling out their complement of shares this year. Various theories are circulating to explain this problem, such as: "It's the economy stupid!", and "We're just getting too many CSAs in the county." While these two factors may make the job of finding shareholders a little more difficult, I think it would be sad if our farmers despair on the basis of these theories.
But you can help! Shareholders helping out was an integral part of the original North American CSA model as it developed on the East Coast, but somehow we rugged western individualists have seemed to leave that piece out of the puzzle. As the pioneer CSA farmer in the county I stand guilty as charged as a poor role model. But even I from time to time accept a little help and even rarely, ask for it.
So the kind of help I'm asking you to offer your farmer here is in the area of marketing. For we introverted, "I'd rather be out in the field talking to my plants" farmers, marketing can be tough. And its getting to that time of year that our fields are exactly where we should be. If every CSA shareholder copied off three brochures and handed them out to likely friends or co-workers, that just might be enough to get the job done. Our latest shareholder was signed up through such an effort (Thank you Eric and Eileen, and Clay).
Are there sympathetic businesses you patronize that might lay out some brochures?
But there is another level at which CSA members might want to help. The traditional image of the help shareholders give farmers is spending an afternoon weeding or harvesting crops. But might it not make even more sense if shareholders offered help that came from their own area of expertise or labor of love. Natural born marketers might offer to help design and implement a marketing campaign, avid speakers might offer testimonials at social, trade or religious gatherings, writers could write articles for newsletters (this techno- illiterate can't even conceive of the new electronic media possibilities).
A few shining examples of this kind of help come to mind. Our own CSA member Heather Lehman (of atrocityarts.com), first offered, and then insisted on building and maintaining our web site. Heather claims we are allowing her to use us as a guinea pig, but the quality of her work and her known dedication to the local food movement bely any selfish motivation. Heather's offering has been incredible. Occasionally we show our gratitude by "allowing" her to come pick some surplus, or past prime produce that we are too exhausted to pick and market ourselves.
On a more community wide level, the work of Glenn Grossman and Sunrise O'Mahoney come to mind. Glenn's "Clark County Food and Farm" website offers a comprehensive view, with commentary, on the farm and food scene in the county. Whatever role Sunrise plays whether it is struggling to grow a food co-op, or coordinate plans for the 78th Street Farm, Sunrise always keeps an eye out for the welfare of local small farmers.
These folks have made giant contributions and no one expects that kind of "agricultural support", but maybe you have a skill that you could "guinea pig" on "your" farmer. Call her and find out.
And here's an update from the farm from Hunters' Greens:
The intrepid Clark County Farmerette Brenda Millar of Rosemattel's CSA looks like she may yet make good on her promise to have radishes and salad greens for the opening of her Battle Ground Farmer's Market this Saturday at the Gardner Center. The greens may qualify as micro-greens, but the radishes look like they just might size up in the next few days. To round out her tables she will also be harvesting some over-wintered collard greens, leeks, chives, pea shoots, herbs, green garlic and our undiscovered delicacy the "sweet collette." Visit her stand if you're craving the "first fruits" from this property in 2010.
Meanwhile, down in the Hunters' Greens fields, tiny baby bok choy, mustard and arugula seedlings are sprouting up between rows of tiny walla walla onion starts. The carrots were actually able to break through the rain packed soil, the next question is whether it will be soft enough for their roots to swell. Meanwhile around the green house a sea of plants in seed blocks is growing to cover Brenda's tidy plant benches. Most of these are Jim's, Brenda's remain in the green house and in little shelters she builds with various plant protection fabrics. Spinach and lettuce plants are sprouting true leaves, signaling they only await well tilled soil to drop them into so they can begin the race to June. But ah, there's the rub, unlike Brenda who scratches what she can into the cold earth, Jim insists on waiting for the precisely correct soil conditions to do his final tilling, soil amending and transplanting. Those conditions may have arrived during a brief window this week-end, but we'll never know because Jim was curled quietly in his bed sweating out the mother of all crud bugs; swine, seasonal or other, it was brutal. In his early farming days he might have crawled out to the fields, but fifteen years of experience have convinced him that it WILL work out in the end.
Observing this sense of calm juxtaposed against Brenda's frantic efforts reminds of us of the great gift of owning land with a home, free and clear. In the days of the family farm, such a gift was passed on from generation to generation, but today's new small farmers don't benefit from that tradition. It is painful to watch the Brendas and David Knauses struggle to achieve their dream in the face of daunting odds. Watch for a longer essay on this subject in our blog, Notes From the Margin.