Very excited and honored to be here and to share the podium again with Professor Wen and Andre Leu!
At the 1993 NYS CSA Gathering in Syracuse, I shared my thoughts on the significance of CSA as an antidote to the dominant industrial food system: “We need to take our work more seriously. We have the chance to build the food system that will replace the current one. CSA is an idea – a tremendously flexible concept for a new consumer-farmer connection, an alternative system of distribution based on community values. The economics of direct sales make this a win-win solution for farmers and consumers. The farmer gets a decent price and the consumer pays less, since there is no middleman. For the farmer, the CSA offers the possibility of a broad support group of people who genuinely care about the farm’s survival and who are willing to share the farmer’s risks. Consumers have the opportunity to connect with the earth, know and trust the people who grow their food and support the local economy. The big question we must answer – will this be sustainable?” These were bold words, and you may ask what I had been smoking, but in 2015, 28 years after the first tiny CSA began in NY, there are over 400 CSAs providing weekly shares to over 30,000 households. In Maine, one family out of 5 belongs to a CSA.
There would be little point to traveling half way across the world just to go to workshops and meetings. You can do that by skype or teleconferencing. The many encounters and personal connections around a conference are at least as valuable as the formal agenda. At meals and late into the evenings I had wonderful talks with friends old and new. Here are a few glimpses.
One of my dearest friends in the international CSA network is Shinji Hashimoto. I had the pleasure of touring his farm on my first trip to Japan and four years later staying for two days with his family during the Urgenci conference in Kobe in 2010. I was a guest at a special dinner to celebrate 17 new farmers in his area whom Shinji helped train. Then I returned the favor by arranging for Shinji to be a keynote speaker at a NOFA-NY conference in 2013. In Beijing he had some sad and disturbing news. Fukushima and radioactive contamination have caused a serious and perhaps irreparable split among the members of the board of the Japanese Organic Agriculture Association (JOAA), which has championed Teikei since its origins in the mid 1970’s. JOAA has been very supportive of the Fukushima area farmers who are determined to stay on their family lands despite the contamination. Michio Uozumi, a Teikei farmer and JOAA board member, has been able to demonstrate soil management methods that tie up the cesium in the soil so that the produce does not contain dangerous levels of radioactivity.
JOAA has also supported sending young farmers to help those who remain in the contaminated zone. Shinji Hashimoto is vehemently opposed to this program. Shinji’s father was a child in Hiroshima when the US dropped the atom bomb on that city at the end of WWII and has spent all his life observing what that exposure did to survivors. Shinji accedes that farmers may be able to make the produce safe, but the whole area continues to have dangerously high radiation levels. He has taken a Geiger counter there to do his own testing and considers it immoral to expose young farmers to this level of contamination. Shinji also shared the much happier story of how his Teikei members and fellow farmers dug out his farm after the landslide last summer. Continue reading “Rural Regeneration, Part 3”→
Two simultaneous conferences – the 6th Urgenci International CSA Conference and the 7th annual national Chinese CSA conference – shared a grand opening with a performance of traditional Chinese instruments playing while a video showed a mysterious hand deftly sketching scenes of everyday life on a traditional farm. There were welcome speeches from the conference sponsors, Tsinghua University, the Shunyi District Government and the Ministry of Agriculture.