...A delightful partnership in good stewardship and some darn good eatin'!
Underpinning all this exciting new "locavore" interest must be the realization that sustainable agriculture is not at its heart a business venture ... and buying a CSA share is not in its essence like purchasing some anonymous factory product or commodity.
At their best, CSAs build a consciousness of reciprocity from which a new food relationship is born, one which promotes the long term health and functioning of the farm - as well as the community of consumers who depend on it.
Greetings My Foody Friends!
In 2008 we took a year's hiatus from doing the CSA.
At the small scale we operate, we need more than just monetary exchange to justify the enormous energy required to provide diverse, high-quality, weekly foodshares to a handful of "customers". For 2009 we are seeking a new kind of partnership with a core group of committed "foodies" who see and understand the greater mission of Community Agriculture, (beyond the luscious, weekly grub) and who are willing to brainstorm, work with us and help build that evolving partnership. We seek support in organizing, holding the vision and running this venture -- as well as in planning and maintaining the long term life and health of Laughing Dog Farm. Please contact us to discuss this seriously joyful mission. Truth is, we're not so much looking for 2009 CSA "customers" as we are seeking savvy and committed partners in this effort to create a saner, healthier, more local (and more delicious) food paradigm here in western Massachusetts -- and across our planet.
In the interim, as always, we have high quality food and heirloom seeds to share and barter. Please inquire!
PS... I'm leaving the rest of this CSA page intact for you to read about our past arrangements and other relevant information regarding Community Supported Agriculture...
So, we are asking our CSA subscribers to join LDF as part of a five (5) family team, geographically, or otherwise-connected, who, each week, collectively pick up, haul away (and distribute...) their five, pre-boxed shares. Although we can help you network and meet other hopeful LDF consumers, the final responsibility for finding and organizing these five-shareholder teams is yours. We're asking each five-family team to provide one "working member" who will be available on CSA day, once a week at LDF, all season, to help box up and haul away their team's five shares. This task may involve some light harvesting and bouquet making and should take (one trained helper) two to three+ hours per week. The working member also receives various edible and educational perks, as well as a 15% share discount. It will be the team's responsibility to provide a substitute should the working member become ill or otherwise unable to help sort, pack and deliver her five weekly shares on the designated CSA day (Tues or Weds).
Asking for one working member from each team of five shareholder families seems like a graceful and generous compromise between zero involvement and asking every CSA member to volunteer. Although vaguely nervous about "requiring" member involvement in the weekly distribution regimen, our five year CSA experience tells us that: (1) Producing such a long (20+ weeks) season of diverse, heirloom produce, herbs and flowers requires enormous hand labor as well as personal and psychic commitment and so, a little timely voluteer help along the way can be huge! ...and, (2) We only wish to do this CSA in the context of a functioning community of friends, neighbors and associates who also share a growing commitment to helping build a healthy, local, sustainable food culture. We do not judge those CSA subscribers who're just in it for the fresh grub. However, we are not selling our fresh produce simply as a fee-for-service business. If you are purchasing a CSA membership simply to purchase organic produce at a competitive price, thank you for supporting CSA, but... please seek out one of the others via the Pioneer Valley CSA Network.
We're also asking that at your convenience, each share family personally visit Laughing Dog Farm before the start of the CSA season. Again, we're prepared to work extremely hard over an extended, intensive season only for and with folks we've met, with and feel connected by the core values of what we are doing here. CSA at Laughing Dog is not for everyone. Thanks for respecting our very specific focus!
Although in farming nothing is guaranteed, 2008 shows every indication of yielding another diverse and delicious bounty here. Laughing Dog Farm has a steady history of producing and sharing premium vegetables, greens, flowers and fruits, season after season, since 1999. The rest falls to a team effort to orchestrate and coordinate the graceful and efficient sharing of said bounty... LDF 2008 CSA season begins in mid May and stretches into early October...
The total cost for a LDF 2008 CSA share is $625.
We are open to but cannot promise to accomodate creative barter options. Unless you absolutely need to make other arrangements, we sincerely appreciate your settling up in full by June 1st. This is your commitment to the full season. We start growing our CSA veggies in February. We need to be certain you'll be there to receive and appreciate all the bounty we will produce!
We are looking to generate 20 excellent shares in 2008. If you cannot consume a whole share yourself, do find another family to partner with. We aren't able to offer "half shares". But you may split a share between two or more families, on your own. All weekly shares will be roughly equal. Splitting of shares must occur on your end and must not involve us whatsoever. If you would like to enjoy our fresh, heirloom veggies, flower bouquets, etc, but can't commit to a CSA share, we'll be happy to create special orders for you. Just ask. We'll also be setting up for retail sales at several local farmers markets this year including Saturday morning Farmers Market in downtown Greenfield.
More Discussion of "Working Membership" CSA
This wonderful, cooperative, social model (CSA) which has evolved steadily in North America over the last several decades, basically from the collaborative efforts of consumers, farmers and food activists, can have enormous value for us here in Franklin County, just as everywhere that people consume and need quality food.
But, without a functioning community around it, even a CSA moves quickly toward being just another service-for-a-fee, an impersonal purchase of a product, albeit a green, fuzzy one.
True blue CSA members accross the continent support their farmers by accomodating to the anomalies of the season, some dirt on the veggies, occasional slugs, even occasional natural disasters and crop loss. Likewise the serious CSA farmer rewards her loyal subscribers with seasonal perks and edible priveledges fit for a goddess.
Savvy CSA members find various alternative, useful ways to contribute and donate of themselves. CSA members' contributions toward the cause can include time, muscle, mind, computer or automobile. CSA members can get involved organizing, weeding, collecting bags of leaves or picking string beans and berries. At their best, CSA's build a consciousness of reciprocity from which a new food relationship is born, one which promotes the long term health and functioning of the farm -- as well as the community of comsumers who depend on it.
This, then, is our hope... Please join us!
Laughing Dog Farm, 398 Main Rd. Gill, MA 01354
More Information About "Community Supported Agriculture"
What's So Special About CSA's?
CSA's personally link the local grower and consumer without unnecessary intermediaries, pollution and cost. But a CSA is more than just a trendy way to purchase local, naturally-grown produce. Although a CSA is a business, true, we see it also as a community-building tool by which we all help begin to reform an outdated food system while we each become less dependent on imported food. Indeed the CSA movement is part of a much wider, international movement promoting appropriate technology solutions and sustainable life systems. Here is a new link to a geographic directory of all the CSA farms currently active in the Pioneer Valley - Pioneer Valley CSA Network. Please do your part to support our local CSA farms!
In Japan, where the movement may have started, the word for "CSA" literally means "food with the farmer's face on it". Indeed the idea of growing high quality, heirloom produce as an intentional social partnership (not simply a cash transaction) for our neighbors and community -- is precisely what appeals to us most about this kind of farming.
You see, "backyard" micro-agriculture is no longer to be viewed as either a fad nor a hobby. Today, thousands of CSA farms/gardens/urban garden projects around North America provide substantive, alternative sources of fresh produce to local people -- people who love real food, fresh and pure, and, presumably, are also happy not to pay for expensive advertising, distant haulage and wasteful packaging (much less for unlabeled GMO ingredients!!!). CSA's also help small farmers by securing an upfront, fair market sale of the crops, which in turn frees us up to grow more, better and more diverse goods. CSA's give recipient families not only superior food at a good price, but also a personal connection with the source.
So How Does a CSA Actually Work?
The CSA arrangement is not necessarily typical of "capitalism" or retail commerce as we know it. Part of this arrangement assumes that you, the consumer, (I prefer to see you as a "partner") come prepared to share some of the vagaries - as well as the many blessings of vegetable farming that, typically, the grower/seller shoulders alone. Even in the best of circumstances, harvesting food can be prone to weather extremes, disease, and pests. Also, the natural harvest cycles yield waves of surplus and dearth. This can be a troubling concept for would-be CSA subscribers. But, don't panic, if your grower is competent, the CSA experience is likely to be marked by bounty, quality and diversity.
Is a CSA Membership Right for Your Family?
In general, CSA subscription seems to work best for families who want an uninterrupted supply of excellent quality, fresh produce, greens, herbs, fruits, flowers and vegetables - and who have the time and focus to cook/prepare them on a regular basis.
Joining a CSA is like getting a puppy...
In order to reap the full reward, you must continue to invest time and love and not neglect it. On one hand, I'd say, if you aren't shy of the kitchen and are ready for a delicious gift that keeps giving, the potential payoff of a seasonal CSA share can be enormous. On the other hand, if you lead an ultra-busy life and rarely have time to cook, perhaps the CSA is not for you. But, if your family appreciates ultra-fresh, delicious, high quality veggies including greens, brassicas, roots, beans, spuds, tomatoes... if your household thrives on fresh veggie soups, exquisite salads and righteous stir fries... then membership in a CSA might just be the perfect elixir this summer!
Generally speaking, a CSA share is said to provide a nice selection of assorted vegetables for a small family of three to four persons, for a week. However, a "food inspired" couple or even a single person who loves to cook, fuss and entertain could also be well-served by a CSA foodshare.
How does Buying Locally and Naturally"Help the Earth"?
CSA partners understand that supporting farmers directly supports sustainable practices and healthy land stewardship locally while reducing the use of unrenewable fossil fuels and dangerous chemicals, both locally and worldwide. Food literate consumers everywhere know that the true value of such locally grown bounty is reflected not simply by the equivalent supermarket $ value, but also by the long term comparative impact and importance of community agriculture, small farms and sustainable practices as compared with industrial farming methods.
A request for member involement...
At Laughing Dog Farm it remains our strong preference to partner with families and individuals who not only value the best fresh, naturally-grown food, but who also understand how a CSA fits in the bigger world, food economy and wish to be informed and involved with the sources/farm(s) growing their food.. CSA member involvement helps the farm in many small and large ways
Laughing Dog CSA isn't first and foremost a business venture. More accurately, we're interested in promoting innovative, grassroots, community agriculture, in teaching many people about food growing and processing. We are usually quite well enough rewarded just by a sense of kinship with those who cook and enjoy our stuff. We greatly appreciate all correspondence, testimonials and in-kind contributions to the Laughing Dog Farm mission.
Research online the rich and thriving local CSA movement via the new Pioneer Valley CSA Network to see what others are doing out there.
Want to talk about getting some of the bounty we grow? Not sure what suits your needs? Email Farmer Dan or call - 413-863-8696.
Blessings on all your meals this season!
Daniel Botkin, Farm Manager, 398 Main Rd. Gill, MA 01354
Laughing Dog Farm