What is this farm? Is it merely a piece of land that we willfully cause to be agriculturally productive? Or is it more then that, a portal into nature?
We’ve lived here three years now, and we are just beginning to understand what this farm is.
I am beginning to want to share more of this existence, in order to connect others to the same beauty that we get to experience every day.
When I look at our business, I see that our CSA is probably the core of what we do. That means our CSA members are very important to us, kind of the backbone that holds us up. They share the risks and rewards that we experience in our growing season, they enjoy the same bounty we do as we harvest our vegetables throughout the year, digging in the fragrant dirt, picking bugs off the leaves, the endless hoeing.
But could it be even more then that?
One thing that got me started thinking about this was having an idea to form a certain type of co-operative in our area. I realized that we already have a co-operative organization, which is our CSA program. LTD Farm is not just the land, the plants and animals, and us, it is also our members who put their faith in our abilities and their money where their mouths are.
CSA originated in Japan, where a few housewives got together and said, “Hey we want fresh milk.” What a simple but almost revolutionary idea. People together can create a demand, they can find a producer who will supply what they want, and with their revenue can start the engine of a local economy.
This is a million miles away from middleman marketing. This is direct marketing.
Teikei is what they call CSA in Japan. In Japanese it means “cooperative ‘ or “joint venutre” but is has come to mean “food with a farmers face on it”. It almost seems to be a cross between what we consider a food co-op and what’s known as CSA here in the States. There are small farms that feed 10 families, and there are larger farms that produce enough to supply cooperative markets, but the basic principle is to supply organic food directly from the farmer to the family.
We are a Teikei farm. Our members have a direct relationship with us, and most folks who enjoy our duck eggs, fresh turkeys or chickens, or anything else that we produce, probably know who we are. If not, we want to encourage them to know more about us, our farm, and our farming practices.
As Organics become big business and burgeoning bureaucracy , which is also happening in Japan, the focus on connecting the consumer to small farms and farmers is gradually lost. There is no better certification program then knowing your farmer, visiting your farm, and seeing exactly how your food is grown and harvested. You can make up all the fancy labels and regulations you want, but walking on a farm with a farmer, seeing the vegetables and chickens and apple trees and weeds growing right before your eyes, that is your best certification system right there.
Right now I am contemplating how to be a teikei farm that can provide most of the fresh food that our members want and need. There are a few elephants in the room. How much money does a single member wish to spend on a fixed amount of produce and meat for the year is one, and another is what kind of funds need to be raised so that the farmer can continue farming and also make a living wage. Perhaps another is how much involvement does a member really want in some of the larger aspects of farming, and what kind of benefit to the member there might be for being involved at a higher level.
The complexities of the Teikei farm are numerous. Perhaps that is why a lot of small farmers are content to be market farmers. You grow what you can grow, and then you sell what you can sell. With Teikei farming comes many relationships. But as permauclture has taught me, the more relationships you have in a system, the more resilient and bountiful the system can become.
So I am thinking about our Teikei next year. Starting the year fresh with a meeting amongst members and potential members would be beneficial. We will also probably include at least one or two workdays in 2014, in which you can come out and experience what we experience on a daily basis; the fresh air, hard work, sore backs, and good food! We will of course have a Member Appreciation Dinner.
To collaborate with our members to fulfill their fresh food needs is the goal. Will you join us in this local food revolution?