In 1965 concerned mothers in Japan noticed that a large part of their family food budget was spent on imported products. They began a buying club from a local farmer and the concept of Community Supported Agriculture was born. It was named “Teikei” which translates “putting the farmer’s face on food”.
Ironically- at least to me- is the fact that the first American CSA was organized on the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in Wilton, NH by a German biodynamic farmer named Trauger Groh. I can’t find any literature to tell me what that first year was like, so I feel like I ought to do my best to describe our first year in New Hampshire as a CSA, to put a face on our food as the Japanese would say.
On Friday we opened the doors to our first allotment- albeit limited to what needed thinning, like Spring onions and the Russian kale that over wintered in the kitchen garden- but it was a start. I am just beginning to be able to remember the names of our first members, not one of my strong suits, but one that has been made easier by Meredith’s ability to always remember and to gently remind me who is coming and something specific about them. The pace has certainly picked up and the related chores associated with the gardens seem never ending, but the rainfall levels have been adequate, the soil conditions are improving daily and the excitement from seeing healthy vegetables and fruits develop week by week is more than enough to offset the fatigue and exhaustion that goes along with a workday that begins at dawn and often ends after sunset. The other night just before dark I paused on the terrace to eat a plate of roasted Nantes carrots and Chioggia beets drizzled with olive oil and sea salt. I am sure I have had better meals in the last half century of my life, but at that moment I couldn’t remember a one of them. The satisfaction of eating something when you’ve earned your hunger, of being able to savor each bite as you survey the broad sweep of land where it was grown, and to do so under the clean and open sky of a place where you feel at home is insurmountable.
It’s hard to explain what it’s like to have a relationship with food, from seed to plate, but it is one that our members seem to have already developed, and for that I am profoundly grateful. I appreciate that they not only made an investment in the health and future of this farm, but in the time it takes to insure that they and their families are getting the freshest foods available locally. They ask questions that show they have thought about not only their own nutritional needs, but the diet of the livestock and the poultry that live here as well. They understand the importance of moving away from mass produced factory foods that travel thousands of miles and countless days since harvest before being served at the table. And in the US, that’s not a thought many of us have entertained. They bring things to our farm that nourish us in return; their enthusiasm for what we’re doing, the energy of their children who take to the farm like a proverbial duck to water and their encouragement when all we have to offer at the beginning is a handful of Spring onions and a carton of multicolored and mismatched eggs.
I can see where this is heading, not just for our farm and the shareholders who have signed on this year, but for the future. I have spent the better part of my adult life as a cynical man who saw our Nation’s headlong rush for more, more, more as inevitable and unstoppable, but now I am not so sure. I think that a momentum is beginning to build, slowly to be sure, one family at a time, but building all the same. There is a growing awareness that some of the things we left behind are worth going back to retrieve and when we start with something as vital as the food we eat to sustain our bodies and nourish our families, maybe we’ll take the time to look around for other things we’ve forgotten as well.
So for everyone of you who took a chance on our farm, we thank you, deeply and sincerely. We look forward to a wonderful Summer of bountiful harvests and delicious meals eaten slowly under a sheltering sky.