By Bailey Hollingsworth
“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.” ~Thomas Jefferson
In the world of big business and non-stop consumption Community Supported Agriculture is a definite step to a more sustainable planet. Many people don’t have time to get to the farmers market for fresh produce but that’s no excuse when you can have local farm fresh produce delivered to your doorstep. Stephenie Caughlin, owner, of Seabreeze Organic Farms in San Diego, California stops at nothing to grow, harvest and deliver food to the 130 families of her CSA.
Community Supported Agriculture is just as it sounds--agriculture or food production that is supported or funded by a community of people also known as members, shareholders or subscribers. CSA initiatives help develop a sense of pride when it comes to food consumption and production by creating a relationship where the producer and consumer are relying on each other.
One of the major benefits of joining a CSA is food security, knowing who is handling your food, how your food is being produced and securing a local grower to produce on your behalf. Many Americans have about a three-day supply of food on hand and if there is any disruption in distribution, we may find ourselves in a food shortage. By becoming a member of a CSA you can be assured your local farmer will be loyal to you the person who has been loyal to them.
With the daily dose of food options consumed by Americans, from processed and pre-packaged foods at supermarkets to the overwhelming number of fast food establishments, it’s no wonder Americans are suffering from an ever-increasing rate of debilitating diseases related to inadequate nutrition. To provide a well balanced, nutritionally diverse diet Stephenie has established a group of local responsible growers she calls her “food root network.” Many of the families get a kick out of the adventure and creativity needed to plan meals around some of the unique food items provided in the weekly deliveries.
Sustainability is a challenge for the small farmer but Stephenie does everything she can to reach this lofty goal. Seabreeze is considered a self-certified organic farm because of the financial imposition incurred to become government certified. There are no synthetic pesticides or unnatural methods of production used to grow the food Seabreeze delivers. With less than two acres of land for cultivation vertical growing techniques have been implemented. Using fences to grow vine vegetables and a growing system of stacked pots, land and water consumption are greatly reduced. Much of the “waste” produced at the farm, from tree branches and horse manure to cardboard and plant clippings, is reused for mushroom production and earthworm food, generating a super-compost known as “black gold.”
Financial sustainability continues to be a daily struggle for the small farmer. “If we were to truly charge what it cost to produce this it would be double what we are charging now.” Stephenie explains, “so it’s a great personal sacrifice that we do all of this.” Government agricultural subsidies have weakened the stronghold of small farmers by using taxpayer dollars to control certain food commodities, creating a virtual demand in the market. This guarantees farmers of these commodities a certain price for a certain amount of product, which small farmers can’t compete with because of their small-scale production usually of a greater variety of food. Throughout the years, the industrialized agricultural companies that benefit most from these subsidies have slowly bought up the majority of small farms around the country so the remaining small farmers depend greatly on the demand of their local communities to keep business running.
Stephenie’s goal of leaving a good lasting legacy for the rest of the world can be seen daily in the long, joyful struggle of producing fresh seasonal organic produce for delivery to her families. With the ever-increasing time crunch people are faced with along with our growing dependency on foreign food sources CSA initiatives like Seabreeze Organic Farm can give consumers confidence in the food they are eating and even a little extra time to prepare a savory nutritional meal.