In Stonebridge’s twenty-four years, we’ve witnessed the remarkable extent to which community formation can be based on food production. In community supported agriculture (CSA), individuals and families purchase or barter weekly shares of the produce as farm members, sharing the costs of farming, as well as the bounty--or losses--of the land. Within CSA, people organize community around the need and desire for fresh, farm-based vegetables and herbs, as well as for food security in the form of local access to organic, non-genetically modified, and seasonal produce, an access that is predicated on the continued maintenance of agrarian land. With CSAs, local land stays in food production, helping communities move toward greater self-sustainability.
Now in our twenty-fifth season, we’ve found that not only does CSA mean that the community supports agriculture, but that this agricultural model in turn creates and supports community through the production, distribution, and celebration of food. As fossil fuels became scarcer and food production becomes a leading component of re-localization efforts, CSA can provide strategies on which to base future food policies.
Although CSA has several roots, one model comes from Japan, where amidst concerns regarding the decreasing access to locally grown food, women consumers approached farmers to grow crops specifically and personally for them in order to ensure food safety and security. This concept is called teikei, meaning “putting a farmer’s face on food.” In this mutually beneficial arrangement, consumers share the risk of production by paying farmers at the beginning of the season and sharing the successes and failures of the season. Subscriber members share an interest in the farm that is more than just financial, but social as well. While the nature of the interaction varies from farm to farm, CSA provides an alternative model to conventional agriculture today precisely because it unites community formation and local food production.
Humans--despite their artistic pretensions, their sophistication, and their many accomplishments--owe their existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.