By Jesse Pizzitola, Owner, First Light Farm.
Have you ever found a deceptively simple answer that solves multiple problems? Although it may be simple, it changes the fundamental structure and enhances the energy of everything you do? That is the way I feel about creating a thriving local food system with the help of the CSA model (Community Supported Agriculture). The benefits can be seen in the health of the body, mind, community, environment, and economy.
I grew up in and around Sonoma County, Guerneville, Sebastopol and later, Napa. Although my mother is from a long line of farmers in Illinois and before that Ireland and Wales, I was not raised on a farm. The thought of being a farmer never occurred to me until I was a few years into studying botany in college and spent a season working on a biodynamic, horse powered farm. That year changed my life. My connection to and understanding of the natural world and my place in it was changed forever. Back then I thought I was having a unique experience, now I see there were many people having the same experience and coming to the same conclusions as I have. Things are changing and I am proud to play my part in this ground swell of interest and activity around creating local food systems.
Imagine this: A community that gets all its food locally, which is grown organically to the highest standards that maximize ecological health and the nutrient content of the food. The farms that provide that food are accessible to the community, so consumers are aware of where their food is grown and even see it growing. They come to the farm for events, and some come every week to pick up their vegetables. Children grow up witnessing the seasons as they eat through them. Every year they become more and more aware of how things are grown and what it takes to grow them.
In my experience with alternative agriculture on many farms in the last 15 years, I am convinced that the best way of making this vision a reality is the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model. CSA is becoming a household word and is taking many forms. The general idea is for members to sign up for a season. During that harvest season the member receives a box of produce each week. The CSA asks for a higher commitment from the consumer as well as the producer. In return the member gets the freshest produce money can buy at a good value and the farm gets a stable form of income. The CSA forms a stable economy for a farm by building an interested and involved community around it. This not only helps the farm, but fosters a culture in the community that is based on health and awareness of our land and food.
Creating economic stability is crucial for any farm. Industrial agriculture might have the outward appearance of economic stability, but on closer examination it has the benefit of massive amounts of money through government subsidies and special interest groups, not to mention a total reliance on technologies, pesticides and fertilizers that are proven to poison the earth and people alike. Instead of creating an anemic system that is in constant need of bolstering, the CSA is a system that can stand on its own with a solid foundation in the community of people that it feeds. It is a simple solution that solves many cultural problems by asking our communities to take food production into their own hands. The best thing is that it turns out to be a joy and an enhancement of life!
After many years of being away, my wife and I have come back to my home. We have slowly taken the reigns of First Light Farm, which was started by Nathan Boone seven years ago. We are now developing the CSA part of the business. I am so happy and honored to build this farm and be a part of the community around it. If you are interested in subscribing to our CSA for a generous box of organic vegetables and fruit this season, or want to know more about our farm, please visit our website www.firstlightcsa.com.
Jesse Pizzitola was born and raised in Sonoma County. After getting a degree in Botany, he has been pursuing a career in agriculture, working on CSA farms in Covelo, Arcata, Winters, and Lopez Island WA. He now owns and operates First Light Farm with his wife, Lisa Murgatroyd, in Petaluma. His interest is in developing a biodynamic farm that strengthens the community around it and transforms the lives of the people working in it, all through working creatively as a steward of the earth and a producer of good food.