Five of the near neighbours of Katrina’s Kitchen Garden in Titirangi have allowed our Social Enterprise to use their gardens to grow food biodynamically. Their generosity of spirit seeks nothing in return, not even recognition. These are people who clearly want to do good. We salute them.
There’s a model of farming becoming popular around the world. It’s called Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. Small communities support a local farmer, take a financial interest in a local farm, and weather the seasons with that same farmer by purchasing, whatever is produced on the farm, in the form of a weekly box of produce. Most CSA farms offer a 13 week season, and set the price of produce for three months at a time. There are as many versions of this as there are farms, and most farms seem to allow for customer preferences in the selections they send out.
The benefits to the farmer in a CSA are pretty clear: there is guaranteed income for the season ahead, and a predictable level of demand. This way time can be spent nurturing relationships with a dedicated group of customers. The crops can be planned before the seeds are even planted, which takes some of the guesswork out of the supply & demand equation.
The benefits to the customer are also pretty clear: they get to know who is growing their food, where it is grown, and that they don’t have to go shopping each week for produce. There is also an effect on carbon footprint. Of course, there’s a little risk in terms of how good the tomato season is going to be this year, or how big the garlic bulbs will be.
A less obvious benefit to the customer is the satisfaction gained from supporting a localised economy. Many of us want to eat a local diet, and realise that growing food locally will result in more local jobs, and money that stays local. The farmer supported by the local community will probably spend their money on services supplied by that local community. Buying vegetables from the big supermarkets is not likely to benefit the local hairdresser, chemist, florist, cafe…
Is Katrina’s Kitchen Garden a CSA? Not yet. But we are definitely interested in this model. As we grow, and develop the CLUB Farm prototype we are seeing other skills being shared, and connections being made within this small local community. Some of these connections are coming about purely because of the agricultural activity we generate. In this way, we are not so much Community Supported Agriculture, as Agriculture Supported Community.
So what are the benefits for farmer and customer?
The farmer gets to tap into a wide range of skills – in our case many skills have been donated to us by friends and neighbours who want to provide support. Through this, we have seen networking happening between our customers. This networking frequently occurs when volunteers are gathering – our volunteers are usually highly qualified people who just want to get their hands in the dirt, participate in some local food production, or see how biodynamics works in a practical sense. Many of these connections have an element of synchronicity to them. We used to say ‘How on earth did that come about?’, but we now say: ‘It’s happening again – that’s why we were meant to encounter this person at this point in time!’
The benefits to the customer in this model are the connections they make through participating in a local farming endeavour. There’s a quality to the interactions that many people feel is starting to vanish in our modern society, which is meaningful real-time interaction with both friends & strangers. Visitors, for example Council Officials, have been amazed at the level of community connectivity apparent within the street where Katrina’s Kitchen Garden is based.
I know there are games where you can build a virtual farm, manage the crops, sell the produce, and demonstrate business skills. But the only way I see to plant a lettuce in reality is to take an actual seed or seedling, clear a physical space in a garden bed, and plant it in the soil. Hands in the dirt. Away from the computer. When this kind of activity is done in a group, the conversation can wander over many topics, and that the simple, repetitive task becomes less of a focus than the topics being discussed. It is through these conversations that ties are made, needs are communicated, and skills get shared. And it is a beautiful thing to facilitate.
I love social media, and know that we are able to utilise social media to get our message out to many, many people around the world with relative ease. What I miss though, is having face to face contact with the people I call my friends, my family, my community.
Through our CLUB Farm activities we are creating a space for real-time live connections to get established, reignited, sustained, and developed. And this is Agriculture Supported Community.
[Photo of volunteers by Ecomatters Environment Trust, CLUB Farming logo by Nicky MacDonald, of SPG TV]