Farmer John & CSAs

This morning, the Oregonian ran another great article dealing with farms and the CSA model, this time focusing on the farmer-celebrity “Farmer” John Peterson (of the recent film The Real Dirt on Farmer John, which we still haven’t seen). Apparently John was in Portland recently and they interviewed him about the benefits of Community Supported Agriculture. He had some great points, a few of which I’ve excerpted here for your reading enjoyment (but the whole article is worth reading too):

“[The CSA model] creates a relationality between us and our food,” Peterson says, “between us and the Earth. It deepens our relationship to the source of life. When we become more conscious of the thing that sustains us, of its history, its biography, then we become more fully inhabitants of the planet.”

… Another reason to buy directly from a farmer? Building relationships with farmers can be a proactive form of protest.

“Many things can happen,” he says. “People can bash Monsanto. They can bash organics.

“But joining a CSA is not like holding a picket sign at Monsanto headquarters. It’s not like boycotting genetic engineering. It’s more than resisting or combating a set of practices.

“It’s an alternative with profound ramifications: The money can go to a chemical company, or the money can go to a farmer. . . . I want the farmers to have the money.”

Large corporations, who took over many family farms in the 1980s, have now learned “to mine the price break” on organic vegetables, Peterson says. They are learning how to follow organic rules and charge more for mass-produced vegetables.

“They are trying to dominate organic farming, but they can’t re-create the CSA experience. It’s more of a local system of farming, a quiet revolution.

“CSA farms are like cells, very loosely associated. They are autonomous, independent. They can’t be consolidated. It’s a new model that emulates something from the past, a relationship model where consumers and shareholders get something special from the farmer.”

And vice versa, Peterson says, which leads to his final reason.

“This model helps farmers to prosper because of the willingness of the shareholders to support him,” he says. “It doesn’t really eliminate the middle man: The shareholders do some of the work, the farmer does some of it — those functions do occur. But there is more prosperity and less adversity for the farmer.

“Shareholders get to see the joys, the struggles, the miracle of raising food,” Peterson says. “Farmers get to work with consumers, seeing their joys and needs. I’m all about the empowering of farms.”

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