Last week I had the opportunity to speak about Transition Farm on Donna Morabito and Kalja Coulston's weekly show The Grapevine on 3RRR. It was a short conversation between Donna (a summer share member), Kalja, Adam Grubb from Very Edible Gardens and myself that touched on the Community Supported Agriculture concept, Transition Farm, what Pete and I are building and why. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to share our thoughts and listen to others ideas on CSA's. I have found myself thinking further about some of the aspects of CSA's that were raised.
At the beginning of the conversation, it was mentioned that Peter and I are "avant-garde" for starting a CSA. Maybe because we have been researching the CSA movement around the world, and know that there are thousands of farms that have been operating under a CSA model for decades, we do not feel "avant-garde". Even though in Australia there are not many models, the ones that exist have been providing their local community with vegetables for many years. In thinking about it further though, I have realized that the true "avant-garde" people in this endeavour are those of you who have joined us for our Summer Share.
Why are you avant-garde? Paying up front for a trial season of vegetables in our first season is not only putting your faith and trust in our abilities as farmers, it is also making a financial commitment to supporting young farmers and the CSA model of agriculture that we are trying to build. As Community Supported Agriculture is a concept that has yet to be widely embraced in Australia, the families that have joined our summer share have entered a farming experiment.
Even with all of our research into CSA's and our personal trials with crop diversity and growing in this area, this trial is very much about experimenting. We are trialing growing techniques, varieties, packaging box size, box collection, etc. Running a farm in this way is new to us and we do not know what the community is looking for from us as farmers. This experiment could only happen with the interplay between our members and us.
Some "box" schemes encourage you as a "consumer" to become part of a "co-operative" in order to wield your "buying" power so that you can get high quality produce without the retail mark up. We are not only presenting members a chance to join with us in the financial process of growing food, we are also encouraging members to become a part of the journey of their food and hoping that they become involved in how Transition Farm grows as a CSA.
On the financial side, our CSA model does still have us, as farmers, investing the capital necessary to grow food. But our members are investing in us, staying committed through boom and bust. If we have a bumper season, our members receive the surplus. And if a Christmas hail storm decides to visit and wreak havoc on our first Sweet corn planting, our members may not get any corn until the second planting is ready for harvest. You are trusting that we are growing a diverse amount of food to cover for crop loss. And you are journeying through the growing season with us. Watching as the seeds sprout and grow and flower and mature. And then once we start to harvest, we hope that our members will continue to communicate their thoughts on the produce they are receiving.
This concept is vastly different from other consumer/growers relationships because you, as members, are not saying, it is OK to go and source corn from elsewhere if your crop fails. You are not thinking about paying a higher price for the corn because there has been mass crop failure...think about bananas this past year. You are saying that in good times and in bad, we will continue to eat local and support our local farmer. And we, the farmers, are listening to what you think and what you want.
I have not had the opportunity to ask all of our Summer Share members why they have signed up. Some are family and friends who want to support Peter and I. Others have just found out about us and joined in. Most are families who are looking for the highest quality, organic produce. Maybe you did not realize what an "avant garde" choice you made by becoming a member of Transition Farm. But your commitment to reducing the food miles, eating seasonal, local produce, supporting a community business and being a part of our growth as young farmers so that we can learn more about how we can serve and provide food for the community is very special and not a concept being practiced by many in Australia.
Thank you to all of our Summer Share members! We are really enjoying growing your food and look forward to meeting you and feeding you in January!
Gardening notes for this week have been posted. These gardening notes offer further insight into the biodynamic and sustainable farming practices that we are using as well ideas for the home gardener.
Our new companion planting article is A favourite garden companion - The pobblebonk
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On the right of the Seasonal Notes page, there are links to previous posts sorted by month. You can also click on any of the bold words under the heading “TAGS” and search for any posts on those topics.