Community Supported Agriculture


I spoke today with my thirty-year friend Bonnie Mandoe, author of the celebrated cookbook Vegetarian Nights: Fresh From Hawaii. She’s been renovating old adobe homes in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and is excited about embarking on a half acre farming venture on her land. So, excited, in fact, that she is about to have a gallery show of her oil paintings of the irrigation of pecan orchards. Bonnie’s brimming with plans to start a CSA farm.

Community supported agriculture (CSA) is a system inwhich consumers subscribe in advance to a local organically certified farm, giving the farmer capital for operations and feedback from consumers, and giving the consumer a weekly or twice-weekly box of whatever the farmer is harvesting.

It’s the next best thing to growing it all yourself, or growing some of it and bartering with your neighbors for the rest. It’s better than buying organic at a farmers’ market in terms of knowing exactly what is going into your food. Still a farmers’ market beats a health food store for prices and often for quality and variety, and you can get to know the vendors you buy from regularly.

Health food (umm, natural food) stores beat supermarkets for quality of food and certainly for the quality of literature preceeding the cashier. Supermarkets are not particularly concerned about genetically modified organisms in the food, about the use of insecticides, herbicides, and various chemicals used in food processing, nor the use of artificial colors, sweeteners, hormones and preservatives in the products they carry, nor about cruelty to animals. Yet, thankfully, due to customer demand, most now carry some produce labeled organically grown. Unfortunately, that label is no longer representative of once-stringent inspections that disallow the use of chemicals in agriculture, due to pressure from industrial agriculture and chemical company lobbyists.

We will be following with interest Bonnie Mandoe’s progress with her new project!