The CSA - Letter From Camelia

Having lived here for over a decade and following many years of being peripherally involved in farming in B.C. Ontario and Nova Scotia, last year was my first experience as the full time hands-on farmer here at Watershed Farm. Thankfully we were blessed with a long and hot growing season. As well we were fortunate to have a revolving door of great WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) as well as family members, twice removed, who came from as far as B.C. and Germany and points in between to spend time learning and participating in daily life on an organic farm.

Many of you may have met some of us from Watershed Farm at the three local farmers markets on the South Shore that we attended each week. Or perhaps you enjoyed some of the fruits of our labour transformed by a chef in Mahone Bay or Lunenburg as we also sold our wares to a few restaurants. Not bad for a first season!

But more than anything else, I derived the greatest satisfaction in being able to offer our CSA partners a wide range of items from cherry tomatoes of every colour and indescribable sweetness to parsley pesto and fresh gourmet salad mix, and from fennel bulbs to purple carrots, lemon cucumbers as well as staples such as potatoes, onions and garlic. Each week as I wrote up the newsletter that accompanies the weekly offerings, I thought about the unique opportunity that this arrangement offers as I introduced each of you to the ever-changing landscape of the farm. I enjoyed sharing the hardships and joys of watching plants ripen despite the vagaries of weather and the fascinating and endless array of creatures of all shapes and sizes and invariably voracious appetites that can be found in the garden.

In its purest form, the CSA model is a remarkably radical concept, linking farmers and eaters in a direct relationship that is predicated on trust and respect, as well as mutual need. See link for history of CSA’s .While there are now close to 3,000 CSA’s in North America, it was only thirty odd years ago that he first CSA’s in North America arose out of biodynamic farms in the U.S. in which the farmers and members were familiar with the teachings of Rudolf Steiner (founder of Waldorf Schools and Anthroposophy) and E.F. Schumacher who penned “Small is Beautiful, Economics As if People Mattered”. I feel that there is a simple elegance in the model of the CSA both in its ability to transcend the market economy model and in the pragmatic and simple notion of building community out of mutual respect and need.

On the practical level, I found that there was nothing more heartbreaking than taking wilted lettuce home after standing for five hours at the market with no takers. While my chickens celebrated these slow market days that meant tasty wilted salad for them, I found it terribly frustrating and wasteful. In contrast while packing the CSA bags, I always rejoiced knowing that everything we harvested would be received by a grateful “eating partner”. And I trusted that each partner truly appreciated the labour that went into growing and harvesting the quality produce they received. It seems that many also enjoyed the feeling of participating in a community linked by their common appreciation of all of this bounty.

This season, Watershed Farm will be offering a number of events that are specifically designed to bring CSA members into a better understanding of how the farm operates and what is involved in growing and harvesting food. Last year many of the CSA members found their way to our farm either to participate in workshops or through Open Farm Day. This year we will celebrate planting days that will welcome members of all ages to share in the fun and work of planting vegetables and tilling with a draft horse, as well as harvest days that will end in bonfires and shared meals fresh from the garden. As well, we will be offering a discount to all Pollination Project events of this season to CSA members in order to encourage the members to participate in more of the events that we hold at the farm.

I look forward to another great season of growing wonderful food and long hours with my hands in the soil at Watershed Farm.