BY HENRY BROCKMAN
We live in difficult times. We are hit with a daily drumbeat of near-apocalyptic news: climate change, natural disasters, migrants fleeing violence and poverty, a dysfunctional government at home . . . the list of things to anguish over seems limitless. It is so easy to become numbed into a state of paralysis and helplessness: What can I possibly do to make this world a better place?
I’ve got an answer that is quick, easy and enjoyable–become a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm and start making your home, your community and your planet a better place.
Admittedly, I have a bias here. I have grown organic vegetables and marketed them through a CSA to families in the Peoria-Bloomington area for over two decades. But I wholeheartedly believe that the CSA model is the most environmentally sustainable farming and marketing system we have. By joining any local, organic CSA, you can immediately begin effecting positive change in many ways. Here’s how.
As a CSA member, you support a farm that protects the air, water, soil and wildlife. One small example: last spring, as we were harvesting the perennial sorrel, we came across a nest hidden in the mulch. Inside were two just-hatched chicks and one unhatched egg. The perennial sorrel patch, and my farm as a whole, is a feeding and breeding ground for insects, birds, and untold millions of life forms from visible earthworms, slugs, snakes, rabbits and toads to the invisible but influential and essential bacteria, fungi, protozoa and other life of the soil. When you support a CSA, you are also supporting this immensely complex web of life and helping it thrive.
As a CSA member, you are combatting climate change. I haven’t worked out an official greenhouse gas budget for the farm (any students out there would like to do this as a research project?), but I know for a fact that the food I produce has a much smaller carbon footprint than conventionally-grown, or even large-scale organically-grown, produce. My guess is that we are actually sequestering more carbon dioxide than we are emitting, since my method of farming builds soil organic matter (i.e. stores carbon in the soil), and half of my acreage each year is in perennial cover crops that pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and convert it into plant biomass and eventually soil carbon. (The perennial sorrel, chive, and rhubarb patches also continuously sequester atmospheric carbon.) So CSA members are helping to combat climate change and global environmental degradation.
You are also supporting the education of the next generation of small-scale organic growers. The farmhands and apprentices who work for me acquire the skills and experience needed to start their own farms and feed their own communities. So CSA members are ensuring the health and welfare of the next generation of farmers, and the next generation of eaters.
And you are helping your local economy. Not only does your CSA subscription allow a farmer to make a fair living by growing good food in a good way, but your dollars circulate in our local community — for example, when I pay my workers and buy supplies from other local farmers and local businesses.
So yes, you can make a difference, even in these difficult times. And your reward for becoming a CSA member is the freshest, healthiest food imaginable.
So sign up with a local organic CSA today, and begin making our community and our world a better place — one delicious bite at a time.
Henry Brockman, Congerville, Ill.