Eating Greeneville

Farming, bartering and foraging for meals in East Tennessee.

National CSA Sign Up Day 2016

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CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) as we know it today in the United States has it’s origin in 1960’s Japan.  Say what?  The Seikyou Movement which is short for Seikatsu Kyoodo Kumiai, translates roughly into “Living Cooperative Union”.  In 1960’s Toyko a group of around 200 housewives were becoming increasingly concerned about the mercury levels of a nearby industrially polluted lake.  They sought clean food for their families and approached local dairy farmers.  They offered the farmers a premium price for their milk up front in return for the assurance that the farmers would produce it “cleanly” without the use of chemical or synthetic inputs.

By the 1970’s the Seikyou movement had spread well beyond milk and included meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits and more.  By contracting directly with consumers the farmers were receiving a premium price for their products over the wholesale prices they were previously locked into.  Think about it, when we spend our food dollars at a grocery store they are apportioned to packers, distributors, transporters, retailers and lastly, the farmers.  This forces farmers to sell products at a price so low that 4 other industries can benefit from the fruits of their labor.

The first CSA model, the Seikyou Movement, is interesting to me because it was CONSUMER DRIVEN.  The Toyko housewives wanted to put a face to their food.  They wanted assurance that the food they were feeding their families wasn’t poisoning them.  This is what we as farmers want at River House Farm.  We want customers to enter into our CSA because it means something to them to be able to come to the farm each week and see the health and vitality of our fields, to get to know the very ground on which their food is grown.

In large part, the CSA movement in the United States is somewhat FARMER DRIVEN.  In the world of Amazon Prime, drive thru everything and home delivery services like Plated we are accustomed to paying for something and immediately receiving it.   But what if Amazon had to pay for the manufacturing of a product BEFORE it was produced because the manufacturer needs capital for the supplies and the labor to fulfill the orders?

It’s true that CSA money is often the only income a full time farmer will receive for many months out of the year.  In East Tennessee we picked the last of our late fall crops out of the field just before the end of December and our farmer’s market and restaurant sales won’t be really kicking into high gear until May.  We have, however, purchased seed, cover crops, fertilizer, irrigation supplies, propane for the greenhouse, potting mix for plant starts, new tools and marketing materials.  That’s a whole lotta spending.

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I personally see the CSA model as a mutually beneficial agreement.  I also see it as a way to keep small farms like ours sustainable.  Knowing exactly WHO and WHAT we are growing for BEFORE getting seeds in the ground is key to a small farm’s success in my opinion.  Talking to chefs in the winter and finding out what they are most interested in buying, giving them a detailed list of what we will be growing and sometimes even a seed catalog is essential to our survival.  I’ve worked on so many farms where I have seen thousands and thousands of pounds of beautiful food thrown to compost piles or to animals.  Yes, this is much much better than throwing food in a landfill but why are we OVER producing so much?

Having an very early (late fall and winter) commitment from CSA helps us as farmers to plan accordingly.  I didn’t get into farming to participate in the gross over abundance of food waste in our country.  I  came to this land to feed my community.  My neighbors, friends, perfect strangers and anyone else that is interested in the reassurance that their food is clean and safe to feed their families.

Generating income right now in their winter period helps us as farmers to dip less into savings and invest this new flow of cash into the 2016 season, but we also understand the economic struggles of those around us.  If supporting our efforts to feed the community and to put our produce on your table this season is important or appealing to you but $600 seems like a lot of money to shell out at once, please call or email us.   While its beneficial for us to receive CSA money sooner rather than later, we are willing to take a $100 deposit to hold your spot which will allow you to save up and stagger payments until May 1st.  Which is still 2 months away.

I have shopped at the local stores and there is absolutely no way you will ever be able to buy $30 of organic produce as nutrient dense and fresh as our CSA basket in the amount of product you will receive from us.   I once filled up a hand held basket at EarthFare and it cost $100.  I was completely blown away.  You have the opportunity by joining a CSA to put 100 PERCENT of your food dollars into the hands of the producers, no middle men, no hidden costs ( or hidden chemicals, pesticides or shady growing practices for that matter).

I think it’s Michael Pollen that coined the phrase “vote with your food dollars” and that’s exactly what a CSA is.  You’re voting for local, clean food and to live in county that produces its OWN food.  In simple terms Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.

In this day and age of increasing demand for food sovereignty, we are proud, excited and humbled to be your farmers.

For information on our CSA on the blog Click Here.

For more information directly from your Farmer, feel free to call Melissa at 718.387.7530 (cell)  or email melissarebholz@gmail.com

 

 

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