This picture, right here, is CSA.
If you didn't know already, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It's a system in which community members "buy-in" to a local farm and thereby support said farm from the ground-up. When members "Join Our Share" up front, they provide the needed funds for us to buy seed, amend the soil, and get plants in the ground before the season starts.
We call ours a Farm Share, but that's neither here nor there.
What matters is not what it's called, but the people who do it.
So back to the photo above. It shows our son Tripp looking happy and content. He's looking at the camera with this happy, trusting expression...and you know who he's looking at? A CSA member. Once a week, she welcomes Tripp into her home to play with her own son, eat, nap, and grow, so that Bobby and I can work all day on the farm without distraction. I got this photo in a message at lunchtime after four long hours of weeding, planting seeds, and shoveling compost. I can't tell you how much it meant to me to see this picture and to know that Tripp was safe, well-cared for, and happy in the hands of a trusted member. I guess I can tell you though, that I knew that I could run headlong into four more hours of laying drip-tape, putting down weed barrier, putting up trellising, and transplanting cucumber seedlings with certainty because I had peace of mind. Because of this beautiful arrangement called CSA, I'm able to put my hands in the dirt and grow food for people with confidence and pride.
The most awesome thing though, is that the support this CSA member has shown us is not an anomaly. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways our members have supported us. I guess what I'm trying to say is this; we are here because of our members in so many more ways than one. They support us financially through buying our Farm Share, but the exchange is so much more than just a Paypal transaction.
Here are just a few ways that our CSA members have made farming possible for us:
-One of our members adopted our chickens and now supplies eggs to the farm share.
-Another "adopted" our sourdough starter and will now be baking bread to supply the share.
-The sheep who are fertilizing our fields and trimming our pasture belong to a CSA Member.
-A CSA member owns the bees who will be pollinating our summer plants so that we can have squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, okra, and tomatoes to put in our share boxes.
-This summer, a member will be driving out to the farm to watch Tripp while we pack CSA boxes.
-When Tripp was born, and we were spending time in the hospital, a CSA member wrote us a card and gave us badly-needed money.
-Another member has passed down baby clothes to us through her box (once she emptied her box out of veggies, she'd put baby clothes in for us to find when we picked it up!)
-Members have helped us advertise by sending emails to their friends, posting on social media, and even changing their profile pictures (thanks guys!).
-We've had a member offer to give us an interest-free business loan.
-Many of our members have contributed to our crowd-funded projects like our brick-oven, our kiva zip loan to buy the cargo van, and our hoop-house rebuilding fund.
-CSA members attend our farmers markets, our farm dinners, potlucks, and parties.
-Several of our members have become employees of the farm.
-Our long-term members have been patient with us through all of the times we messed up in the early years.
-Our pastor and his wife are members and they, along with other members of the congregation (who are also members of our CSA!) have shown unconditional support since the day they invited us to come talk about sustainable farming one week.
-Our land owners are CSA members, and have supported us from day one in too many ways to count.
We love farming through CSA, because: we want to be an integral part of this community, we want to feed and support this community, and because we love this community. We got into this knowing that it would be a long. hard, dirty, and stressful road, but the unexpected part of all of this is how much our community has loved and supported us back. We are so grateful.
When members trust us to grow their food, they are not only giving us the financial tools to succeed, they are giving us a vote of confidence. Knowing that we are entrusted to grow what's going to be served on their tables and what's going to bring nourishment and energy to their bodies ennobles us to work harder and longer, and to do the work that we love with a smile. We imagine these seeds growing not only food for bellies, but fodder for conversation. We imagine meals being made with our food becoming center-pieces for family discussions, tokens of fellowship at potlucks, and building blocks for young, growing bodies.
So as we go forward into our season, we want our members (past, present, and future) to know that we are so so thankful for you, that we are here for you, and that because of you, we farm.
Thank you from the bottom of our dirty, sweaty, grateful hearts.
Bobby + Chelsea
We grow tasty veggies, bake bread, host farm events, manage a farmers market, raise an energetic little munchkin, cook, restore this farm property, read books, and try to bring more good food and good things to middle Georgia!