Community Supported Agriculture
The term "Community Supported Agriculture" (CSA) has become quite common. It means different things to different people and on different farms, so we would like to explain what Community Supported Agriculture means to us at Bee Loved Gardens. First of all, it is worth noting that what we sell is what we grow. We are not a subscription service or delivery box program where products are sourced from various farms (whether locally or not) by a "middleman".
We are simply a small farm, growing a wide range of produce, and selling it directly to our customers in the form of weekly boxes of fresh vegetables and flowers.
Here is a breakdown of what Community Supported Agriculture means to us:
COMMUNITY. At it's core: a farm / farmer connected to a community of people. And, just as importantly, a community of people connected to their local farmer(s). And, a community of people amongst our customers.
We love this aspect of the Vegetable Share program because it is like old times:
- Being able to talk to the folks who grow your food
- Finding a farmer with food-growing practices that you support
- Visiting their farm
- Asking for recipe ideas for their produce
- Connecting to the unique soil food web and plant diversity at their farm (I highly recommend reading Farmacology by Dr. Daphne Miller for an excellent overview of this + other farm- and food-related info.)
- Connecting with other like-minded people
We love knowing who is eating what we produce. And who is enjoying the perfume of our flowers on their kitchen table. We can't imagine selling mass-produced food into an anonymous marketplace, because we value this direct connection with our customers.
SUPPORTED. Early in the year, customers invest in a share of the upcoming harvest, which secures their supply of high-quality produce throughout the season. The weekly dividends of the investment: boxes of the freshest vegetables and bouquets of flowers every week through the season!
We do our best to support our customers, in providing the highest-quality produce that we know how to grow, making it conveniently accessible, and providing cooking tips and recipe ideas.
The early-season investment gives the farmers seed money (literally!) to finance their operations when they need it the most. Most of the investment goes towards:
- seeds & roots
- seeding trays and potting soil
- soil fertility inputs
- foliar (leaf) nutritional inputs
- irrigation supplies
- tools (ie pruners, hand tools for the garden, etc)
- equipment (ie greens harvester, washing equipment, etc)
- row covers and hoops
- other supplies
- in 2015: a simple greenhouse and supplies for growing early crops of favourite vegetables
- in 2015: a simple walk-in cooler
A small amount of it contributes to the farmer's wages: they work part-time on the project in January and February, work full-time hours on it in March, April and May (before anything is ready for sale) and [more than] full time hours in June, July, August, September, October.
This early-season commitment by customers gives the farmer a guaranteed market for a large portion of the crop. There's nothing more discouraging to a farmer than to have beautiful produce available, and not enough demand for it at the time of the harvest.
Supporting a farmer also means not abandoning them in situations such as:
- the deer eat all the spinach and Swiss Chard in one overnight Greens Fest (at least we know how to prevent that from happening again!)
- there is an extreme weather event beyond the farmer's control that affects certain crops
- there is a reduced yield of certain crops because of general weather patterns in a given year (some crops thrive based on whether it is a hot or cool or dry or wet year...)
- there is an unexpected incidence of certain pests or disease that affects certain crops (this also varies year by year)
We all share the risk of the loss of a crop or two - farmers and consumers share in the risks together in a CSA program - but growing many crops minimizes that risk. Also, we do our best to minimize the risk by keeping our plants topped-up nutritionally, and protecting crops from certain insect pests.
AGRICULTURE. So many types of agricultural practices out there, it can be confusing! We wrote a bit about our farming practices, because we want to be very open with what we do (and don't do) with our crops.
Since we are growing FOOD, we feel it is our responsibility and privilege to grow the highest-quality nourishment we can for our customers.
- We apply regenerative agriculture principles to restore the biological integrity of the soil and the nutritional integrity of plants
- Our goal is to produce high Brix, nutrient-dense, flavourful food; this goes beyond organic principles
- We grow heirloom and open-pollinated varieties wherever possible
- We choose varieties of each crop based on their flavour and overall health
- We use compost, cover crops, natural mulches, and other nutritional inputs like ocean minerals and kelp
- We support honeybees, other pollinators and beneficial insects by providing habitat and food sources for them
- We keep some livestock to contribute to the overall ecosystem and fertility of the farm
- We do not grow or use any GMO crops
- We do not use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides (these are not needed in a functioning, diverse, natural system)
This is the type of agriculture we practice, and we love to share the magic of it with others! We feel it is a privilege to grow food for others.
We do everything we can to support natural processes, and we have the daily privilege of watching seeds germinate, plants grow, livestock birth and mature, and everything interact in amazing ways.