Once upon a time families and communities grew their own food. They ate with the seasons and lived in close relationship with the Earth. Over the course of a few generations our cultural norm has shifted significantly from producing and eating local food to buying food created by agribusiness and shipped from the far reaches of the globe. Unfortunately, this uses a lot of resources.
20th century agricultural changes
Until the 20th century many cultures in the world practiced traditional farming methods that were entirely sustainable. These methods were developed with an understanding of natural cycles and the importance of supporting and caring for the environment that provides the food. Because many of these cultures were relying on the same area of land to put forth food for hundreds or thousands of years, sustainability was integral. Even in young America, with the wide-open spaces that lent themselves to less sustainable development, organic farming was the only way until the 20th century. It wasn’t until the end of WWI that agricultural chemicals became available.
With the end of WWII, the use of nitrogen fertilizers transformed American agriculture from a sustainable system of food production to a system that required greater amounts of fertilizer and chemical supplements every year. Over the decades, this has meant the depletion of our topsoil, the erosion of our nutrition, and the disappearance of the small family farm.
This scenario is not limited to the United States. The chemical companies and the farm machinery industry began peddling their wares in other countries as well. Agribusiness was born and the ancient, sustainable practices of many cultures across the world were replaced by modern chemical farming techniques. Today the small family farm is seldom able to compete with multinational agribusiness. More information is available in Secrets of the Soil by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, The One Straw Revolution by Fukuoka Manasobu and Coming Home to Eat by Gary Paul Nabhan.
So what do we do? Choose to buy and eat “pure” food? The truth is that it has gotten harder and harder as the local and pristine resources that once existed have become fewer and farther between. As consumers, it is certainly difficult to chose to acquire a product locally if that product is not being produced by anyone in the area. The solution is two-fold.
First, we must work together as a community to begin providing for more of our needs within the community. Second, we must reevaluate what we need and change our habits accordingly. When it comes to food, that means supporting local food production efforts and choosing to value what can be grown locally and sustainably by paying its worth and eating with the seasons.
We are fortunate to live in a rural community in an agricultural valley. We have not been overrun by the multinationals; our land has not yet been poisoned beyond repair, and there are still people in the area that grow food for a living. We have a lot to work with. With reasonable augmentation, community cooperation and foresight we could create some truly sustainable local options for acquiring food.
The Council for Sustainability and Self-Reliance has recently established a committee to consider this topic for the Crestone/Baca community and to begin to implement some strategies for increasing the availability of quality local food. It is called the Sustainable Food Guild, and its mission is “to develop a sustainable local food supply for the Crestone/Baca community.” Members intend to start by supporting the projects already in place, and then step forward to fill the gaps in the local food supply. It will be a long-term endeavor to create a truly sustainable local food supply, but there are many things that can be done right away to begin the process. The priorities that the Guild has identified thus far are as follows:
•Promoting the existing local CSAs;
•Creating a viable local Farmer’s Market;
•Networking private growers with their neighbors.
If we work together as a community, we can enjoy and support the bounty of the Earth. If you want to become involved in any aspect of local food production or have any information that could assist this effort, please call Jo at 580-1141.
The Local CSAs
Community Supported Agriculture is a system through which consumers share the burden and benefits of growing food with the farmer that grows it. They invest money and/or effort at the beginning of the season in exchange for produce throughout the season. There are many ways of setting up such a system. Three such examples exist within the Valley and are available for any interested participants from our community.
The Atalanta Community Garden, located in the Baca Grants by Willow Creek, uses the traditional ‘box scheme’ method. With this method, members pay a fixed amount at the beginning of the season for their membership ($250 nonworking; $100 working) for which they receive a share of produce per week throughout the season. The shares for Atalanta members will include a variety of garden vegetables and medicinal herbs, as the season provides.
Green Earth farm in Saguache utilizes a ‘voucher’ system for their members. In this system, members pay a minimum of $250 by the end of April and place orders throughout the season, that are then deducted from the original amount. This arrangement may offer more selectivity on the items received and some flexibility for those who would be out of town for parts of the season.
White Mountain Farm in Mosca offers a program in which members pick their own produce. The charge is $150 for a family of 2 and $250 for a family of more than 2. Members are asked to pick only what they’ll eat. All three of the CSA farms in the Valley are fully organic and provide quality food grown with care. I encourage anyone who is interested to contact the farms with your inquiries. See contact information on this page. Happy Spring and may you find the local food source that is right for you!