Friends new and old,
As the new year begins and the time for us to let farmers know what we need them to grow for us this year approaches, it seems a good time to take a quick look at the ongoing developments in our CSA community. Some members may be wondering about what farmer retirement and the Peacework Farm sale mean to our Peacework CSA.
It is pretty remarkable that in our 30 years of community supported agriculture, our CSA community has enjoyed longstanding and close connections with just 2 farmsteads and 3 primary farmers (not including our winter shares and special orders). As we wish our farmer Ammie a happy retirement from farming, and noting the sale of Peacework Farm, the CSA has been faced with the rare, but not unprecedented, need to identify a new farm partner. While a loss such as this is felt deeply, what some of our newer members may not be aware of is that, in contrast to CSAs that are run by a particular farm, farmer or group of farms, Peacework CSA is, and has always been, an independent association of consumers, run by our members. This enables us to continue as community, join in partnership with a new farm or farms, and continue to work together in growing the movement toward a local, sustainable and just food system. Community is power.
Our community, Peacework CSA (formerly called GVOCSA or Genesee Valley Organic Community Supported Agriculture), began in 1989 as a partnership between our independent community of consumers and pioneering CSA farmer Elizabeth Henderson with Rose Valley Farm. We were one of the very first CSAs in the country. Our first farm transition supported the creation of Peacework Farm, with many GVOCSA members contributing substantially to the structures and land development needed to establish the productive capacity of farm. Especially significant was the purchase and preservation of the Welcher Road farmland, with the support of the CSA and in conjunction with the Genesee Land Trust, thus ensuring the long-term protection of the farmland and future farm operations.
Our CSA has always been run, not by a particular farmer or farm operation, but by a dynamic core group of members who volunteer to keep the community running. It is the mission of our CSA to not only provide members with local, organic produce, but to facilitate a close relationship with the land and farmers that produce that food. The depth of experience and commitment of the members in our community has enabled our CSA to weather dramatic changes in agriculture and especially food marketing.
With the growing popularity of farm to table options for consumers over the years, our CSA faced welcome, but challenging, competition for members from new farm direct operations. Updating our online presence, our member work requirements, and even our name change to Peacework CSA were efforts to grow our community and farm partnership while maintaining our unique identity among the often confusing offerings opening to consumers. Although our CSA now shared a common name with our partner, Peacework Farm, in order to help the wider community more easily identify our collaboration, our CSA remained an independent, member run organization. With countless hours put in by committed and core volunteers, we continued our dedication to not only offering our members local, organic produce, but as strong as possible a relationship with the land and the farmers that produced that food.
It is because of those close relationships that the changes we presently face are felt so deeply.
Digging, planting, weeding and harvesting in and from the soil alongside Welcher Road has created a strong bond with the place and people who worked with us. That was the point of asking our members to come to the farm and also help our fellow community members collect the food that had been produced by our farmers and friends. Farmers Ammie and Greg worked closely with the CSA core, as did farmer Liz earlier, to sustain and promote the partnership.
But just as seasons come and go, people and even connections with land change with time. Few of us stay in one place forever. For some of us the connection is so deep we may feel conflicted with the options we now face. With Ammie’s retirement, the business and equipment that was Peacework Farm has been sold and the lease for the land transferred. Farmers Sarah and Sam have a new vision and a new name for their operation, Full Lotus Farm. We wish them great success. Some in our community may wish to continue in relationship with the land on Welcher Road, as well as Sarah and Sam, and become members of the Full Lotus CSA.
However, after much consideration by long-standing core members, the Peacework CSA has decided to partner with farmer Ruth Blackwell and Mud Creek Farm, for a number of reasons. While not only is farmer Ruth also familiar to many of us, having worked with Ammie and Greg at Peacework Farm in the past, her Mud Creek Farm is willing to offer distribution at Abundance Coop in Rochester, something not available with Full Lotus Farm CSA. As a member run organization ourselves, we believe in the importance of member owned and run operations. We believe that siting our CSA distribution at a local coop market benefits our members and the wider community, strengthening both at once. Mud Creek Farm has accepted a partnership with Peacework CSA and there is already a Peacework CSA membership sign-up option on the farm website at mudcreekfarm.com.
It is very understandable that our members will seek out the best opportunity for themselves in choosing food options. We, of course, encourage all who share our vision to consider continuing with Peacework CSA in its new partnership with Mud Creek Farm. Our CSA community has grown on more than one patch of soil and shared labor with more than one farmer; and we will always treasure those relationships. We have successfully helped to preserve farmland for future generations, an honorable accomplishment, and not one that could likely be accomplished as individuals.
We also treasure our community, some of whom have belonged for all 28 seasons, and counting. In addition to coming together around food, we have sought to educate ourselves about food justice, sustainable agriculture, and ways to connect consumers and farmers. We have shared meals, rides to the farm, and recipes for whatever that was in the share this week. It is nice to belong to a community that can outlast any of us and can further a vision to create a sustainable food system where farmers and consumers enjoy a relationship of mutual trust, sharing the natural risk of food production. There should be no losers, only winners in producing the basic necessity and gift that is food.
The Peacework CSA Core
While not certified organic, Mud Creek Farm has taken the NOFA-NY Farmers Pledge, and also endorses the CSA Charter. Mud Creek is in Victor, only a 25 minute drive from Rochester, and offers members of their CSA u-pick herbs, flowers, cherry tomatoes and peas. For half shares, Mud Creek offers pick up every OTHER week. You can also purchase a half share by sharing a share with another member and that way you get vegetables every week. The Mud Creek Farm CSA fee has a sliding scale and Mud Creek members can qualify for the NOFA-NY Neighborhood Farm Share subsidies. There are workdays and parties at the farm as well.
Peacework CSA will be focused on facilitating distribution at Abundance for our members who sign up for Mud Creek CSA farm shares and hopefully many of the other local special items that we have enjoyed before. More detailed information about the logistics of this will be coming soon.
For more information and to sign up, go to http://www.mudcreekfarm.com/, where there is information specific to Peacework CSA members and Abundance pickup. We encourage members to consider signing up for next year's CSA share as early as possible as there are limited shares for 2018, as well as to help the farmers make necessary planning decisions over the winter months. The Peacework CSA website will be a source of information as it is made available, and there is a new Facebook page as well. We are sad to leave our old farm, but excited to invite you to continue with us in this new phase of our life as a cooperative venture to connect Rochester area people with local, organically produced food - healthy for us and for the spinning earth we live on together.