Thursday, August 15, 2013

Nature Provides

Sustainable agriculture is making a comeback, and it's due in a large part to the dissatisfaction with the quality of fruits and vegetables in the supermarket.  Produce is shipped long distances on ships and semi-trailers to make it into those aisles, and people are beginning to acknowledge that this is completely unnecessary.

This is the produce aisle at my grocery store. It's located within a short distance from my house.  It's a farm called Ro-Jo Farm  in Bethany, two towns north of New Haven.

The concept of the acronym CSA is this.
Nature provides us with soil, which contains minerals, sunlight, rainwater, and seeds.  When you combine all of these inherently free things, you get something delicious.  Domestication of plants, known as agriculture, has been around for about 10,000 years and is thought to have begun somewhere in the Middle East, which was not always desert but was once a prosperous land known as the Fertile Crescent.  Since then, humans have been cultivating plants (and animals) in an infinite variety of ways.  One of the most recent developments has been industrial agriculture, where machines are responsible for producing most of the world's food.

These are the hands of Hanifa Washington.
She's the executive director of Amistad America.  She also lives in a farmhouse and she spends her mornings washing vegetables that are picked by her farm manager, Toby.

The farm is in her backyard and it's about an acre and a half.  She provides a box full of produce to 15 recipients, once a week.  Each box contains the same amount of items, and the type of produce and the amount of each item are determined almost solely by what the land itself has to provide.
unripe cherry tomatoes
The reason this makes sense to people is because of a concept known as 'sustainability,' which is essentially economic and environmental pragmatism.  The idea is really simple.  If it takes pesticides, preservatives, refrigeration and fuel to transport large quantities of food across the country, but these same items can be grown in the backyard, then maybe it makes sense to grow the vegetables in the backyard.  If this becomes something that results in too much work, then it makes even more sense to produce it in somewhat larger quantities, to work as a group and to share it with others, which is why the "C" in "CSA" is for "Community."  It's as though we're re-learning the same things on which civilization itself was founded, ten thousand years ago.  And it actually works.

One share
This is Bill Fischer, driving the Ro-Jo Tractor
There's no guarantee that the food that you buy in the grocery store was picked that morning, unless the produce section at that grocery store looked like the aisle in the first photo of this article.  Ro-Jo Farm.  Those 15 shares will hopefully expand to 50 shares by next season.  If you'd like to be a part of it, you can contact  There's a comprehensive list of all local CSA's on the CTNofa website if you'd like to see just how many of these there are.  That full list is available [here].

You can also watch a fun video of Hanifa, explaining the significance of flags, as well as bells, on nautical vessels.  There are also more photos in the slideshow below.  We're also working on her new farm logo, to be announced.  Stay tuned!