Article: Collaborative Community Supported Agriculture Program

Photo: Meadowlark Family Farm

Local, sustainably produced food is on the rise, as eaters seek fresh, healthful, safe food, and look to build communities and local economies. Farming involves significant start up costs and risk with low returns, and the average age of a farmer is over 50. Luckily young farmers are sprouting up across the US. I collaborated with Jude Wait (fellow writer, sustainability food advocate and field professional) to interview several who are joining forces to help their farms, consumers and the environment. An excerpted article is below with a link to the full piece.

Check it out and  support local farmers. You’ll enjoy better food and a healthy economy, and preserve farmland and farmers for the future. Look for farms that use environmentally sustainable methods such as organic, biodynamic or permaculture. Some smaller farms may not be certified due to costs, but they’re generally transparent about their practices and you can visit farms.

Ashland-Talent Growers Community Supported Agriculture Program
By Melissa Schweisguth and Jude Wait, Locals Guide, 3/10/10

With spring blooming, one can almost taste tomatoes, corn and other treats from local farms. Luckily, a new crop of farmers is growing to fill our plates with goodness. The Ashland-Talent Grower’s Collaborative unites three farms, with other producers, to provide fresh, sustainable foods…I interviewed the farmers to dig up the details.

What brought your group of farmers together?
Chris Hardy: We wanted to see if we could make small-scale agriculture more viable and resource-efficient through collaboration—sharing marketing, equipment, planning, labor and purchasing. The current economic reality is inequitable for farmers. Together, we can achieve more with less, and serve customers better by providing more diverse items.

What are your farming methods and philosophy? How does this benefit us?
Matt Suhr: Our methods start and end with the soil. Maintaining its integrity is key to a healthy bioregion and soil food web. Though none of us own the land we farm on, we steward it as if it were going to be growing food for future generations. We use organic and permaculture techniques, are adapting plant varieties to our bioregion and are saving seeds, ensuring long-term food security and a healthier planet. Our goal is to sell what we grow locally, keeping dollars in our economy and providing local fresh food that’s more healthful and alive, and tastes incredible.

Why is it important to support local farms?
Chris Hardy: Our community’s health depends upon this. With less than 3% of our food supply grown in the Rogue Valley, unprecedented global political and economic challenges facing us, and food safety issues increasing through consolidated, industrial agriculture, it’s time we bring it back HOME, to the farm.

Quinn Barker: We also need land stewardship that considers the development and conservation of soil fertility to be of the highest good, recognizing this priceless resource.

What are the challenges you face as young farmers?
Matt Suhr: Our biggest need is affordable farmland, especially land that will be maintained for agricultural use. As long as land is seen as a commodity it’s never safe from development for short-term gain. We may get offers from land owners to farm on their properties, but who don’t share our vision. Ideally, a land owner would make a long-term commitment to keep land in sustainable agriculture use for 100 years or more. Ron Roth at Eagle Mill Farm did this by putting his farm into a Conservation Easement, a great example.Michael DiGiorgio: Working capital is also a challenge and that’s why we do CSA’s. When people buy CSA shares, they reserve a share of the harvest and provide working capital to buy compost, seeds and equipment. So, please support your farmers and buy into CSAs!

Full interview here

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