Sunday, January 25, 2009

Expanded "Community Supported Agriculture"

Expanded "Community Supported Agriculture"

I am really, for the most part, borrowing the name Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) (or maybe I'm lifting it).

Maybe it would be better to come up with a new name like, Locally and Regionally and Inter-regionally Community Supported Agriculture (LARIRCSA) ;-) .

"Conventional" CSAs are well intentioned in that they strive to have community members share the risks associated with farming with the farmers. Fair enough, and my plan shares that objective. However, the problem with CSAs and buying your food by the pound is that early in the season, you'd probably get more strawberries than you can eat (unless you have the luxury time and resources to make jam), there are varieties of tomatoes so those can be stretched out over at least part of the growing season, but most crops tend to come to fruition in relative batches, so the variety in food boxes probably is not optimal. I'm not a farmer, and have limited experience with gardening, so correct me if I'm wrong.

Secondly, mixed cropping implies more labor intensive farming, really extended gardening. While such a system would be much more healthy from many perspectives, it would be difficult for farmers employing such methods to compete with conventional farms.
Third, there are distribution issues. Who is responsible for getting the food box from the farmer to the "member"? It would be uneconomical for the farmer(s) to be responsible for the distribution, and it defeats the purpose of demand-side management relative to "consumer" activity to have the members drive all the way to the farm. Now, if members live in close proximity, then this would not be a concern.

Fourth, in places like Oregon, and even more northern climes, the harvest season is very short. It, like the growing season can be extended slightly, perhaps, by building hot houses, but only slightly.

Fifth, the extra planning involved would probably be too cumbersome for farmers.
I envision, and it may be happening (I don't know), farmers within regions and from different regions forming unions to gain control over the distribution of their products, working with cooperating truckers, warehouse handlers and associated cooperating retail outlets (perhaps incorporating pre-order systems (wouldn't electronic systems be helpful)), in a system of community/worker hybrid cooperative associations.

Similarly, relationships could be built relative to the recycling of organic wastes (of course, the objective would be to minimize such, as it would be to minimize packaging).

Now, the issue of seasonal farm workers needs to be dealt with. Migrant farm-working should be eliminated. Seasonal workers need to be accommodated to their needs during the off-seasons, so that they can have the quality of life of a sedentary community. Again, I don't know the status of such a proposal. Maybe it is already happening... Certainly, a year-round living wage, equity inclusion, and educational programs so that the young can assume more progressively responsible and more highly compensated roles in the food system will need to occur.

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