JOINING a CSA is good for your community, the farmer and yourself.
It is good for you because you save money by receiving an unbeatable value. A CSA forces you to cook at home. Food cooked at home has no preservatives, is low in sodium, is healthier and tastes better.
It’s good for the community because it keeps local farms in business. This promotes local green space instead of sending money to mega-farms out west or in other countries. Promoting local green space promotes cleaner water in the Chesapeake Bay.
CSAs help farmers transition from less-profitable farming operations with crops that are subsidized by the government (causing higher taxes—you’ll pay for your food, one way or the other) to fruits, vegetables and laying hens which have no government subsidy. This in turn helps farms stay in business from one generation to the next.
Promoting multigenerational farming on the same farm keeps the best of the old ways of farming alive, and melds them into new ways of farming and marketing. This multigenerational knowledge of farming and having “lived farming” is an advantage that is so vast and extensive that it compares to nothing of the modern variety.
In the past it could be compared to a skilled craftsman transferring knowledge from one generation to the next. Handing down a paying trade these days is rare today because of obsolescence and economies of scale. Successful farming means doing 100 different things 100 percent correctly. If you make a mistake farming, you will be punished by natural consequences.
Multigenerational farm owners are much more likely to sacrifice potential, immediate profits to position the farm in such a way that it will be stronger in the future. They are strongly motivated by stewardship and legacy.
Mega-farms and farmers who only rent land, because of “the nature of the beast” and through no fault of their own, are financially forced to have a different business perspective. They have become like any other big business whereupon only bottom-line profits are considered, as if this may be their last year of farming. They are financially forced to sacrifice long-term sustainable improvements in order to continue to farm the next year.
CSAs help allow multigenerational farms to have a symbiotic relationship with the local community. The farmland is managed using sound environmental practices so it exists harmoniously with wildlife, groundwater and forests, while leaving agritourism visitors to the farm with a good impression. This is how CSA members and farmers alike can give back to the community.
Land came before the farmer. You cannot be a farmer without having land. Renting land should never be viewed as a long-term solution for a farmer because he is then just a sharecropper beholden to inflation, standing to lose land to developers and whims of landlords who no longer share the passion of personally working the land. A renter is less inclined to take proper care of the land because he has no vested interest in its long-term sustainability.
CSAs are good for the farmer because of the flexibility they provide, allowing the farmer to farm in a way he prefers. They give farmers the opportunity to change, evolve and adapt in order to retain their land. A CSA could be the difference for a family farm staying in business from generation to generation, or not.
Emmett Snead operates Snead’s Farm along Tidewater Trail in Caroline County.