Dear CSA Member: a Love Letter

We sell a lot of fruit to a lot of different people. And I’ve gotta say: y’all CSA members are my favorite. You’re similar to a farmers market customer — you make eye contact, converse sometimes, maybe even offer a compliment or some heartfelt feedback — but more loyal and committed, less fickle and not so easily seduced by conventional alternatives and prices. You’re less cost effective than a grocery store with its relatively massive purchasing power, but you don’t perpetuate food insecurity nor erect financial barriers imposed by the operating costs of middlemen. You’re different from the average shopper in that you seem to understand the value of our labor and our fruit, enough to make a financial investment at the beginning of the season that sustains us farmers through busy hot summers and dreary wet winters.  

And we know you have options. Maybe you’re in it for the deal, but let’s face it, you could be paying less at a huge supermarket chain. Or maybe you’re in it for the “local,” but California is the agricultural mecca of the United States and just about everything is locally available in this state. Maybe you’re an organics enthusiast, but there’s sooo many organic big ag options at a lower price at your local grocery store. Maybe you just love the regular delivery service, but you could be having “Farm Fresh to You” dropping a box right at your door. Maybe you think the taste is incomparable, but you could buy the same exact fruit at the food co-op and avoid the whole upfront financial commitment you made earlier this spring and probably some food waste. Maybe you think the CSA model is the future of socially sustainable agriculture, but heck, you chose our little farm!

After studying and working intimately with food systems for more than five years, I’ve realized again and again that at the epicenter of all of the damage endured and perpetuated by agriculture is the broken relationship between the consumer and the producer. For the vast majority of our existence, the consumer was the producer. Over time, the vast majority of our species has become estranged from the soils, the practices, the ecology, and the people who nourish our bodies and souls. As a modern-day producer, the degrees of disconnection are apparent in the dismissive tone of a shopper who contests our prices. Or when I receive my monthly paycheck, it’s not hard to recall that our country’s agricultural origins were born in the throes of slavery and displacement.

Per the logic of laissez faire economics, there’s no reason for you and I to have this relationship. It’d be easier for us to sell one kind of fruit to one kind of buyer. It’d be easier for you to buy your fruit somewhere cheaper and more convenient. We know this. We know you made a choice, and we know your choice makes it possible for us to make a choice that gives us a little more power in this crazy relentless world. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you, dear CSA customers. We love you. We hope to see you next spring, and if not, please continue to support small-scale farms that are trying to build a different world for farmers, customers and the planet. Peace. 

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