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A home garden in TaiwanToday’s citizens of China, Korea and Japan, whose agriculture of a century ago F.H. King described so vividly in Farmers of Forty Centuries, have almost forgotten the traditions that inspired so many of us in organic farming in the West. But old timers remember and young people are rediscovering their ancient roots. On two trips to Taiwan and one to mainland China, I glimpsed the exciting ferment underway in the countryside.

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With more than 150 farms and 6,200 shares, Maine's Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) community is transforming relationships with food and farms. Customers are committing to farmers, and farmers, in return, are committing to produce the freshest, most flavorful quality food possible for their customers.

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From 1995 to 2005, my husband, Peter Garrett, and I ran a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) garden in Winslow, Maine. Once a hayfield, our land was perfect for growing vegetables: It was flat, cleared and had never been treated with pesticides. Simply Grande CSA produceWe began with a 45- x 200-foot area and expanded until we cultivated 1-1/2 acres and fed 20 families with an abundance of summer produce from June through mid-October, plus winter vegetables for an additional five or six families.

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Winter Storage VegetablesMaine's local food movement is supporting a growing number of outlets for winter purchases – at farmers' markets and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms. Many farmers' markets that don't stay open all winter do run well into the fall now, some until Thanksgiving.

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Elizabeth Henderson gave the keynote speech at MOFGA’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Conference on Feb. 21, 2009. Henderson is a CSA pioneer, farmer (at Peacework Organic Farm in Newark, New York) and author of Sharing the Harvest: a Citizen’s Guide to CSA. While some organic advocates worry that “local” will supplant organic, I think the rising commitment to buy local gives CSAs an enormous opportunity.

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Maine Nicoise SaladAs cool spring nights give way to longer, warmer days, my taste buds anticipate a new season of eating. Bright shades of green burst forth, literally urging me to connect with the land. Dandelion greens sautéed with bacon, fiddlehead ferns baked into quiche, ruby red stalks of rhubarb stewed into sauce – these fleeting, seasonal delights herald the beginning of easy summer eating from my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) basket.

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The industrial revolution changed the way we use land and grow food – for the worse. Over the past few decades, two movements have been reclaiming land to benefit people and the environment. One, including the land trust movement, is devoted to land conservation. The other, the way we grow and distribute food, includes community supported agriculture (CSA) farms, where nonfarm members buy "shares" to support local family farms and receive fresh, healthful food in return.

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Have you looked into buying a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm?  Although shares of summer vegetables are the most common, shares including meat, dairy, herbs, flowers and winter storage vegetables are also widely available. The composition of any share is individual to each farm, so talk to the farmers offering shares near you to find out which suits you best.

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In 2006, MOFGA was awarded a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant for a project entitled: “Building Connections: Creating a Broader Public Base for CSAs” through which, at the end of the three-year project, an additional 20 Maine farms would begin offering CSA shares, and the overall number of shares offered to Maine families would increase by 1250.

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A few years back Russell Libby wrote an opinion piece urging us to spend $10 a week at the local farm stand or farmers’ market. The idea made sense then, and makes sense now. Not only would we get fresh and wholesome food on our tables, but our money would turn over many times in the community, generating local wealth.

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The First Universalist Church in Rockland, Maine, started the first church-supported agriculture program in Maine in 2006, when it created a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) project with Hatchet Cove Farm in Cushing. In 2007, it added the Port Clyde Draggermen's Co-op to the arrangement, adding a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) to the CSA recipe.

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Spring is a great time to sign up to become a member of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm – a farm in which customers buy shares, usually before the growing season begins, and then get a set amount of produce (or meat, eggs, flowers … ) throughout the season. Detailed information about each CSA appears in the Maine CSA Directory.

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ScallionsPete Johnson of Craftsbury, Vermont, and Jeff and Amy Burchstead of Wiscasset, Maine, described their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms at MOFGA and Cooperative Extension’s Farmer-to-Farmer Conference in November.

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In the June-August 2006 MOF&G, we featured efforts of the Maine Council of Churches (MCC) to connect congregations with farmers, through CSA farms, for example. The MCC and MOFGA applied for and received a three-year SARE (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant to bring together new and existing CSAs, provide technical expertise, share stories, recruit and train growers, and use congregations as hubs for local foods.

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Consumers don’t have to wait for a farmer to start a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm; instead, they can organize themselves into a group and then find a farmer or farmers to grow food for them. In the June-August 2006 issue of The MOF&G, we featured efforts of MOFGA and the Maine Council of Churches to start new CSA farms through congregations. The Farm Direct Co-op based in Marblehead, Mass., offers another model.

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To inspire others to start CSA farms, Tom Griffin of Hope’s Edge Farm in Hope told how he was making his 80-share CSA farm work, from word-of-mouth advertising to scheduling planting so that few or no “holes” occur in produce availability.

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Transcripts of Elizabeth Henderson’s keynote address, CR Lawn’s closing remarks, and notes from many workshops are in the 32-page booklet.

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Elizabeth HendersonVariations on the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) theme were highlighted at MOFGA’s Spring Growth Conference in April. Community Supported Agriculture involves customers who buy shares in a farm, usually paying before the growing season begins in order to support the farmer’s startup and continuing costs for the year.

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Experienced operators of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms have the following suggestions, based on a survey conducted by the Ontario-based CSA Resource Center.

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Jean Ann PollardJean Ann Pollard followed Doug Flack's talk at the 2002 Spring Grown Conference by complimenting him in his abundance of interesting information and then stating that both she and her husband are vegetarians. She explained that her husband is a follower of Gandhi, "so that takes care of him;" and that she has reached the point where she "can't think of killing an animal," at least not a four-legged one.

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The USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Network has assembled a list of CSA farms nationwide.

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